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Ball Don't Lie

Controversial goaltending call on Thunder proves key in Game 2 (VIDEO)

Eric Freeman
Ball Don't Lie

The Miami Heat's 100-96 win in Game 2 of the NBA Finals was full of drama, athleticism and skill, making for arguably the greatest game of the 2012 NBA Playoffs so far. The result hinged on many plays, from terrific post-ups by LeBron James to sweet jumpers from Kevin Durant. And yet, in the aftermath, Thunder supporters will likely point to one key missed call way back in the middle of the second quarter that had a big impact on the final result.

With 5:56 left in the half, Heat forward Chris Bosh took a pass from Dwyane Wade in the paint and went up for a lay-up. He was blocked by Durant at the rim, after which Serge Ibaka — the NBA leader in blocks this season with 3.65 per game — blocked the ball again as it glanced off the rim on its way down. Referees called a goaltending violation on Ibaka, which spurred some complaints from Durant and Russell Westbrook. The basket gave the Heat a 39-29 lead, but the margin in the final minute ended up being so close that a different call might have sent this game to overtime.

There are controversial foul calls in every basketball game, but this goaltending violation was flatly incorrect. By NBA rules, a shot that caroms off the backboard and is falling below the rim can be interfered with — the same goes for a shot once it's been blocked the first time. The Heat shouldn't have been awarded two points here, and there's no substantive argument for the other side. It was simply missed by the officials.

[Related: Dwyane Wade: Not much to do in OKC]

It's hard to claim that any two-point swing in the second quarter directly influences a four-point final margin of victory. Anyone familiar with the butterfly effect (or the Ashton Kutcher movie) knows that one incident doesn't relate to the final outcome quite so easily. But Thunder fans have a clear complaint here, and it's hard to disagree with them that it was an important play.

Then again, the NBA Finals are great because literally every play feels massively important. In a game like this one with so many twists and turns unrelated to the officiating, it can be healthier to focus on the greatness of the whole than what one play might have done to the final score. After only two games, this series has the makings of a classic. It's fine to complain, but let's also acknowledge that we're witnessing something special.

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