It's just like we've always said: The NBA and its referees are totally in the tank for Mark Cuban.
Less than two weeks ago, the NBA acknowledged that Dallas Mavericks forward Shawn Marion should have been charged with a foul for hitting the arm of Minnesota Timberwolves power forward Kevin Love during a shot attempt with two seconds left on the game clock. Instead of Love heading the foul line with a chance to tie, though, the Mavericks came away with a 100-98 win. A similar situation unfolded in Dallas on Saturday night, and the Mavs once again reaped the benefits of a swallowed whistle:
After a pair of free throws by Dallas point guard Jose Calderon gave the Mavericks a 110-107 lead with nine seconds left in the fourth quarter, a New Orleans Pelicans team with no timeouts remaining inbounded, needing to go the length of the floor and hunt down a 3-pointer to extend the game. Calderon, not known for his defense, shadowed New Orleans point guard Brian Roberts the length of the floor, forcing sophomore combo guard Austin Rivers into a late-in-the-clock one-on-one matchup with Dallas defender Monta Ellis.
As the clock ticked down, Ellis harried Rivers into picking the ball up several feet beyond the 3-point line. As he does so, Ellis steps closer, looking to either swipe the ball from Rivers' hands as he gathers it or tie him up to prevent a last-second game-tying shot attempt. Rivers steps through, though, and attempts to elevate to get the shot up; thanks to Ellis' left arm being draped across both of his forearms, though, Rivers cannot, and his ineffectual toss toward the basket falls harmlessly to the court along the left block. Despite pleas by Rivers, Pelicans coach Monty Williams, and teammates Al-Farouq Aminu and Darius Miller, no foul was called, and Dallas held on for a 110-107 win.
While he declined to blame the loss on the referees, Williams did term the no-call "embarrassing" after the game. Evidently, NBA President of Basketball Operations Rod Thorn agrees — here's the official statement he handed down Sunday:
After reviewing postgame video, we have determined a foul should have been called on Dallas’ Monta Ellis for illegal contact on the arms of New Orleans’ Austin Rivers while Rivers was attempting a three-point field goal. Rivers should have been awarded three free throws with 0.6 left on the clock.
As was the case with the Love no-call, it'd be an overstep to say that the lack of a whistle here cost the Pelicans the game; they'd have stood a better chance of making up those three points had they at any point tightened up a defense that allowed Dirk Nowitzki to score a season-high 40 points, including 20 in the third quarter, and yielded 68 Mavericks points after halftime on 61.8 percent shooting. As a general rule, blaming officiating for losses in which you allow 110 points, get outscored 25-7 on the fast break and let the opposition shoot 7 for 11 from 3-point range after intermission isn't the greatest look. (And it's not exactly like those three aborted freebies would have been a sure thing — Rivers, after all, is shooting just 64.1 percent from the charity stripe this year, and has made only 57.1 percent of his foul shots since entering the NBA last season.)
Still, though, having a chance to equalize unjustly snatched away represents an added bit of heartbreak for a Pelicans team that raced back from an 11-point third quarter deficit, took a mid-fourth lead thanks to the heroics of Anthony Davis (15 of his team-high 28 points in the fourth) and Miller (three big 3-pointers off the bench in the final frame) and had a chance to score an important victory without injured stars Jrue Holiday and Ryan Anderson. Instead of being at the free-throw line with a chance to extend a game they appeared to have no business winning not long before, the Pelicans were on the business end of their fifth straight defeat, dropping six games behind the eighth-seeded Mavericks and finding themselves even further away from the playoff spot for which they'd hoped to compete at the start of the season. Thorn's get-it-right postscript, thoughtful as it might be, won't change that.
Video via frank den.
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