By Rob Mahoney
The precise nature of the NBA's fouling rules inspire behavior that may seem a bit backward to the uninitiated. Once an offensive player feels a nudge, shove, slap, pull or any other contact he believes to be a foul, he typically responds by throwing the ball toward the rim -- no matter how wild the attempt. A lack of balance or viable angle hardly deters his efforts to hoist up a shot, because the real goal isn't a shot attempt. As long as a player is deemed to be shooting when the whistle is blown, he gains the benefit of a trip to the free-throw line as opposed to the more minor, latent benefits of a non-shooting foul call.
Every player is well aware of this discrepancy, and thus the whistle itself often acts as a cue for players to throw up whatever attempts they can muster. Some players wind up earning a trip to the line on those "attempts" while some don't, and others -- like Memphis' Marc Gasol -- wind up scoring a basket outright on the basis of a wild fling that was never exactly intended to go in. What's amazing about this play is just how obvious Gasol's designs to pass were. Even after he gets a shove from Oklahoma City's Kendrick Perkins, Gasol is looking for a bailout pass to Jerryd Bayless rather than an actual foul call, and he only begins to formulate a shot attempt once the whistle sounds. That his makeshift attempt even gets close is a matter of good fortune, and that he winds up converting the basket a miracle.