Raptors officially file protest over controversial loss to Kings

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<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nba/teams/tor/" data-ylk="slk:Toronto Raptors">Toronto Raptors</a> head coach Dwane Casey angrily walks off the court after losing to the <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nba/teams/sac/" data-ylk="slk:Sacramento Kings">Sacramento Kings</a> on Sunday, Nov. 20, 2016. (AP)
Toronto Raptors head coach Dwane Casey angrily walks off the court after losing to the Sacramento Kings on Sunday, Nov. 20, 2016. (AP)

The Toronto Raptors followed through on their plan to file a protest with the NBA over their 102-99 loss to the Sacramento Kings on Sunday night, stemming from what they believe to be a game-changing error made during the video review of a potential overtime-forcing 3-point shot in the closing seconds.

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The news came Tuesday afternoon from Doug Smith of the Toronto Star:

Smith also detailed Toronto’s intention to protest on Monday night:

“For 47-plus minutes, both teams played a tough, hard-fought game,” the Raptors president [Masai Ujiri] said. “It wasn’t the perfect game by any measure, players made shots and missed some too, but the game was ultimately being decided between the lines.

“Unfortunately, the final 2.4 seconds were decided by someone who wasn’t even in the arena. There’s a human element to every game of basketball and we missed it on the most important play of the game last night in Sacramento.”

It will cost the Raptors $10,000 (U.S.) to make the protest — they get the money back if they are successful — and they have five business days to submit evidence. The league then has five days to make its ruling.

Here, if you missed it Sunday night or Monday, is that “most important play of the game” one more time:

As our Ben Rohrbach detailed Monday, what appeared to be a miracle game-knotting triple off a broken play by Raptors wing Terrence Ross was waved off when officials at the NBA Replay Center in Secaucus, N.J., ruled the game clock “should have started when DeMarcus Cousins tipped DeMarre Carroll’s inbound pass, and exactly 2.5 seconds eclipsed between that moment and Ross getting the shot off — just enough to nullify the final shot.”

The call sparked outrage among the Raptors and their fans, who felt Toronto had been jobbed by both an unjust reversal of fortune at the Replay Center and the possible unwarranted disappearance of several tenths of a second after the preceding play, which could have given the Raps enough time for Ross’ shot to come before the final buzzer.

After the game, referee Mike Callahan explained to pool reporter Tim Bontemps of The Washington Post that a “clock malfunction” led to the Replay Center reviewing the play:

On Monday, the NBA stood by the ruling, first in its post-mortem Last Two Minutes Report on the game:

The on-court referees noticed a clock malfunction on the inbounds play and correctly triggered an instant replay. After communicating with the Replay Center, it was determined that the clock should have started when Cousins (SAC) tips the ball and run to 0:00.00 before Ross’ (TOR) shot was released.

… and then in a subsequent, lengthier statement on the proceedings issued by president of league operations Byron Spruell, who concluded after reviewing “all aspects of the final 27.4 seconds” of Raptors-Kings that “the end of the game was officiated correctly by NBA rules”:

“Toronto inbounded the ball with 2.4 seconds remaining in the game, and the clock did not start when the pass was deflected by Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins. Per the NBA’s precision timing system, the clock can be started by either the referees or the clock operator. The referees noticed the clock malfunction immediately which triggered a replay review under rule 13.1.a.5, which states that a review must occur if ‘a play concludes (i) with no time remaining on the clock (0:00) at the end of any period or (ii) at a point when the game officials believe that actual time may have expired in any period; and the officials are reasonably certain that the game clock malfunctioned during the play.’

“Per rule 13.2.e.1, the Replay Center was then tasked with determining ‘the proper time (if any) on the game clock following the clock malfunction by determining how much time on the game clock actually expired.’ To determine how much time actually expired, Replay Center referee Zach Zarba used a digital timer on the Replay Center screen. The determination was that 2.5 seconds expired, thus negating the basket.

“We also reviewed the question surrounding the time left on the clock for Sacramento’s final possession. That possession started with 26.4 seconds remaining on the game clock since that is when Cousins secured possession of the rebound after a missed free throw. The subsequent shot clock violation on the Kings’ possession therefore left 2.4 seconds remaining in the game.”

The National Basketball Referees Association praised the NBA for standing behind the outcome and showing its work:

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The NBA affirming that the referees properly followed the rules, though, does little to assuage the anger of Raptors backers and those wondering why the hell these are the rules in the first place. From Michael Grange of Sportsnet:

I think we’ve reached the point in sports where it’s got to be an all-or-nothing thing: All the cards (calls) are on the table, eligible to be made right, or none of them. […]

All Ross was doing was executing as well as he could with the time he had. Once it’s determined there was a clock error why should he and the Raptors be penalized?

Why can’t the NBA do what would happen at every pick-up game across North America: Have a do-over.

At the moment there is no rule allowing for that. In the case of a clock malfunction they simply time the play in question and if it was completed in the amount of time that was on the game clock or less, it stands. If it takes a fraction of a second more the basket doesn’t count.

Given the NBA’s double-barreled insistence that the final play was officiated and reviewed properly under the rules presently on the books — rules that couldn’t be changed without the approval of the league’s competition committee during the offseason, which doesn’t do much good for the 2016-17 Raps — it seems unlikely that Ujiri’s going to get his money’s worth from the $10,000 protest filing fee. (The fact that there’s only been one successful protest in the last 33 years doesn’t help much, either.)

Still, Ujiri evidently decided to go ahead, because sometimes you have to stand on principle. More from Smith:

Ujiri’s concerns go beyond just one game. The longer-term implications are serious, he said.

“Mistakes in basketball are inevitable, we deal with them on a daily basis no matter the team or player. But wins and losses in the NBA are finite and last night goes down as a loss on our record,” he said. “At some point, these calls start piling up and matter at the end of the season. Calls like these are demoralizing to our players, coaches, staff, and even our fans. We all expect better than this.”

The Raptors’ protest is the second of the 2016-17 NBA season. The Denver Nuggets filed a protest of their one-point loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, after the NBA acknowledged that both the on-site referees and the officials at the Replay Center made an incorrect determination of which team should have possession on a crucial late-game play that ended with a game-winning shot by Memphis center Marc Gasol. The league on Wednesday denied that protest.

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Dan Devine is an editor for Ball Don’t Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at devine@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!

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