April 19, 2011
After the controversial conclusion to Sunday night's thrilling Game 1 in the Western Conference playoff series between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Denver Nuggets, Eric Freeman asked whether Kendrick Perkins'(notes) key final-minute tip-in should have been called offensive interference. Had the officials whistled Perkins for an illegal touch, the Nuggets would have gotten possession with a one-point lead and just over a minute remaining in regulation; instead, the Thunder took a one-point advantage and held on for a 107-103 win to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven first-round series.
Well, wonder no longer, Eric and everyone else — the NBA's got your answer. And the league's super sorry, Denverites.
From an official league statement issued Monday afternoon:
"Kendrick Perkins was improperly credited with a basket that should have been ruled offensive basket interference with 1:05 remaining in [Sunday] night's game. Although a player is permitted to touch the net while the ball is in the cylinder above the rim, Perkins also touched the ball while it was still in the cylinder which is a violation and constitutes goaltending."
I'm sure Nuggets fans appreciate the clarification, which gives their team a 1-0 lead in the ultra-high-stakes Getting Calls Right After The Fact (Which Doesn't Actually Have Any Bearing on Wins and Losses) series.
As Eric wrote Monday morning, it would be shortsighted to suggest that Denver lost the game simply because of the blown call — it had opportunities to draw even in the final minute, but failed to execute. Plus, as ESPN.com's J.A. Adande noted in a Monday column, the Nuggets "could have been running out the clock with a comfortable lead if they had made more than 21 of their 33 free throws." According to Darnell Mayberry of the Oklahoman, Nuggets power forward Kenyon Martin(notes) dispensed with the woulda-coulda-shouldas Monday: "We could say that if they would have called it we would have gone on to win ... But who knows? The game didn't come down to that goaltending."
George Karl offered a similar take. A day removed from the late-game chaos that had him "in shock," the Nuggets coach told Benjamin Hochman of the Denver Post that he thought he could have handled the situation better:
"When [the Thunder] had the goaltend, they were in a funk offensively — and the goaltending frustrated us and got us in a funk," Karl said. "It's a powerful play. After looking at the film, I think I made a mistake by not calling timeout and letting our mental state settle down. Our team was frustrated, I let them go, we didn't get a good shot."
Now that the league has confirmed the slight, Karl's task is to alleviate any traces of that funk before Game 2 tips off at 8 p.m. ET on Wednesday night. If he can't, his Nuggets could find themselves headed home facing a 2-0 deficit. Then they'd be the sorry ones.