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Suns' Torrey Craig lost a tooth; NBA referees used social media to explain why foul was on him

Play reviews are not enough for NBA referees to make accurate violation calls, which can impact a teams' chances at winning or losing games.

Coaches, players and fans demand answers to questionable calls or lambast them on social media after a controversial call.

But often, there's more than meets the eye.

The issue of NBA officiating drew renewed attention Wednesday night after the Suns fell to the Lakers and coach Monty Williams, in a heated post-game appearance, heavilty criticized the free-throw disparity that favored Los Angeles. That's been an ongoing issue for Williams in games recently.

Since March 2015, the league has made an effort to publicly police officiating by releasing Last Two Minute reports (abbreviated as "L2M") or pool reports containing brief interviews with referees about controversial calls on its @NBAOfficial Twitter account.

Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) is defended by Phoenix Suns guard Cameron Payne (15) during the second quarter at Footprint Center in Phoenix on March 14, 2023.
Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) is defended by Phoenix Suns guard Cameron Payne (15) during the second quarter at Footprint Center in Phoenix on March 14, 2023.

Also, the officials have their own @OfficialNBARefs Twitter account, which provides information about officiating crews for games, and video clips from past games with rulebook explanations of violations explaining a call and sometimes concluding the wrong call was made.

These are essential "what had happened was" reports that are supposed to serve as moments of clarity for mistakes officials made during games' most crucial moments and provide transparency.

After Wednesday's game, Williams was incensed and stormed out of the Suns' media room after he answered just one postgame question from The Republic. He chastized the lopsided foul calls and free throw attempts, which were 31 to 20 calls and 46 to 20 attempts in the Lakers' favor.

Williams was fined $15,000 for a similar complaint following the Suns' first-round playoff los sin Game 4 to New Orleans last April. He gad been reluctant to talk about it through the first half of this season to avoid hurting his wallet again, but, amid recent Suns losses, the issue has become a talking point.

After the Suns' 12-point home loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Mar. 14, the characteristically calm Williams started to show how he's losing patience with the ongoing free-throw disparity. In that game, two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo had 24 free-throw attempts, eight more than the Suns' total, and the Bucks had 44 attempts overall.

Just like on Wednesday night in L.A., Williams said "It's not fair" regarding the officiating of his team accepting physicality from their opponents, but not being allowed to do the same when defending against them.

In the Suns-Bucks game, Phoenix's Torrey Craig was called for a blocking foul against Antetokounmpo during the second quarter.

More:'It's not fair': Phoenix Suns frustrated with Giannis Antetokounmpo getting more FTAs

The 6-foot-11 Antetokounmpo dribbled down the sideline, did a crossover dribble and switched to his left hand, then accelerated toward the paint before he lowered his shoulder into Craig's face, who accepted the hard contact and went flying back hard from the impact. The Suns, their fans, and Craig, who lost a tooth on the play, thought it should've been an offensive foul call, but instead it was called a defensive foul on Craig.

On Monday, the @OfficialNBARefs account posted a clip and wrote why it wasn't ruled a charge.

"We have discussed throughout this series the importance of legality vs. force. Craig is not in a legal guarding position in the path of Giannis. The Lead correctly calls a block based on the defender not being legal versus giving into the force of the play," said the OfficialNBARefs account with hashtag "BlockChargeMonday."

Not surprisingly, scores of Suns' fans responded to that post on Twitter by heavily critizing the call.

Debatable officiating calls are always going to be part of sports. But in the final full month of the NBA regular season when the playoff picture coalescing, calls or no-calls can make or break a team's postseason berth.

In Wednesday's one-point loss by the Atlanta Hawks at Minnesota Timberwolves, the officials' crew chief Ben Taylor was asked about why there wasn't a foul call under the basket for Hawks forward Saddiq Bey. As Atlanta's De'Andre Hunter shot a 3 with three seconds left to play, Minnesota's Taurean Prince boxed out Bey under the hoop then threw one of his arms to push Bey back, causing him to fall.

Hawks coaches and players thought it should've been a foul on Prince, and Taylor admitted the mistake on the no-call.

"On post-game review we see it," Taylor said, according to a report from pool reporter Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. "It appears that Prince moves back into Bey’s space, and we should have assessed a foul on the play."

The Hawks (36-37) are eighth in the East and have been around a .500 record for most of this season, and are currently one and a ½ games from falling from that conference's final 10th spot for the play-in tournament.

The Suns (38-33) are fourth in the West, but currently aren't far off from Atlanta's predicament. They're just two and a ½ out of the West's final 10th play-in spot, which is the Lakers (36-37) are now.

Officiating can't be blamed for all losses, but they can impactfully change where teams are in the standings.

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: NBA referees using social media to explain debatable calls on Suns, other teams