It was the easiest — and strangest — bucket of Kevon Looney‘s career.
It started late in the third quarter when the Warriors’ Anthony Lamb missed a straight-on 3-pointer and in a scramble for the rebound the ball fumbled out of bounds. The baseline official points that it went off the Mavericks and would remain the Warriors’ ball, but then instantly transitions into pointing the other direction to call a Mavericks timeout. Looney goes over to complain that it should be Warriors ball, then walks away satisfied that it is.
Then came the inbounds play.
The Mavs forgot to play defense 😂 pic.twitter.com/S6q9ByrTb7
— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) March 23, 2023
The Mavericks were confused, they thought it was their ball, and after the game owner Mark Cuban sent out this angry Tweet and later said he would file a protest over the game — an eventual Warriors two-point win (127-125):
For those wondering about the play with 1:54 to go on the 3rd, let me explain what happened. The ref called Mavs ball . The announcer announced it. Then there was a timeout . During the time out the official changed the call and never told us. Then when they saw us line up as…
— Mark Cuban (@mcuban) March 23, 2023
After the game, referee crew chief Sean Wright explained the situation this way to a pool reporter.
Initially on the floor the original signal was in fact Golden State ball as this can be seen on video. There is a second signal but that signal is for a mandatory timeout that was due to the Mavs.
Two thoughts here. First, the video of the incident backs up the referee’s account. Still, clearly, there was a communication breakdown about what was happening (especially if it was announced in the arena as Mavericks’ ball, as Cuban said).
Second, why were all the Mavericks at the other end of the court — if it was their ball they still had to inbound it on the baseline. Cuban says two Mavs players were headed down to inbound the ball, although that is not clearly evident on the video. (This is not case of the ball being advanced to mid-court. The ball can only be advanced after a timeout in the final two minutes of the game and overtime.) It’s difficult to understand what they were doing.
It is odd the referee did not check with the Mavs or clarify the situation when the players were about to concede two points for no reason. The communication from the referee crew was poor.
Cuban can protest, but he’s going to lose this one. And this loss stings, it drops the Mavericks (playing without Kyrie Irving due to foot soreness) one game below .500 and tied with the Lakers for the final two play-in spots in the West, 1.5 games back of the Warriors who remain the No. 6 seed. The game was Luka Doncic’s return to the court after missing five games and he finished with 30 points and 17 assists.