Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman and All-Star forward Kevin Love both directly questioned the officials over a no-call that occurred during the closing seconds of Minnesota's 100-98 home loss to the Mavericks on Monday.
With three seconds remaining in the game and Dallas leading 100-98, Ricky Rubio inbounded the ball from the left sideline. Love received the ball after freeing himself using a Nikola Pekovic screen, and he went to work on Shawn Marion in the left corner. Turning to face the hoop and taking one dribble to his left, Love pulled up for a potential game-tying jumper, as his right foot appeared to be on the three-point line. Marion swiped across the front of Love's body using his right arm, and he appeared to hit Love's hand -- and perhaps more? -- as he deflected the ball.
Two officials were looking directly at the play, but they did not blow their whistles, and Love immediately raised both of his arms to protest the no-call. Adelman looked on in disbelief as the game ended.
"He got fouled," Adelman said, according to the Associated Press. "I wonder what that would have been if [Dirk] Nowitzki, LeBron James, all the top players in the league -- a guy reaches on a last-second shot like that, instead of challenging it. Maybe they don't understand that Kevin is one of the top five players in this league. You make that call. But they didn't."
Love, 25, is a two-time All-Star and was a 2012 All-NBA Second Team selection. He entered Monday's action as the NBA's third-leading scorer at 26.1 points per game and the league's leading rebounder at 13.8 boards per game. For what it's worth, Love ranks No. 6 in the NBA in free throw attempts this season.
"I'm the type of person that if you see a foul, an obvious foul, you call it," Love said, according to the Associated Press. "And I thought that was pretty, pretty obvious. ... You look at the replay and it was obvious he got arm."
In reviewing the play after the fact, the league office agreed with Adelman and Love's assessment. The official statement from NBA president of basketball operations Rod Thorn is as follows:
“Through postgame video review, we have determined that Minnesota’s Kevin Love was fouled on the right arm by Dallas’ Shawn Marion while attempting a two-point field goal. Love should have been awarded two free throws with one second left on the clock.”
Timberwolves radio broadcaster Alan Horton absolutely unloaded on the referees during his play-by-play call of the game's closing seconds, specifically name-checking both David Guthrie and Ed Malloy, who worked the game with Scott Twardoski.
"The Timberwolves are screaming for a foul," Horton said, as he watched replays of the final play in real time. "There was none called. Rubio off to Love -- OH, THAT'S A FOUL! Love moved to his left on Marion, Shawn had his hand out, he went right across the arm of Love. That... is... unbelievable! The referees are booed as they go off the floor. BRUTAL! David Guthrie is right there, he didn't have the guts to call it. Also... OH! ED MALLOY! 100-98. [Malloy] was sitting right there along the baseline and didn't make the call. Marion went across the arm of Love. Any replay you look at shows that that was a foul. Ed Malloy was right there and didn't make the call."
The audio of Horton's call can be heard at TwinCities.com.
Dallas believed that Marion made a clean play on the ball, or that he at least only contacted Love's hand while it was on the ball, which is legal according to the rulebook. Mavs.com reports the post-game reaction from the Mavericks' locker room.
“Listen, it was only fitting that he made that play. It was a great job,” Carlisle said of Marion’s defensive prowess in the final moments.
“I just tried to make it hard for him, and I just stayed down and was ready to anticipate anything,” Marion added. “I’m all about winning games, whatever it takes. That’s all it boils down to.”
The NBA league office will certainly review Adelman's comments, which could easily draw a fine for suggesting that the league's officials offer special treatment to superstar players. Zach Randolph was fined $25,000 last week for saying that the officials were guilty of "horrible refereeing" and that the Grizzlies were playing "eight-on-five" during a loss to the Rockets.
Love finished with a game-high 36 points (on 14-for-24 shooting), 11 rebounds and four assists in 40 minutes. Pekovic added 18 points (on 6-for-13 shooting) and 10 rebounds in a losing effort.
Marion tallied a team-high 32 points (on 14-for-19 shooting), six rebounds and three assists for Dallas. Nowitzki added 16 points (on 7-for-17 shooting), five rebounds and three assists.