Depending on what side from which you were watching the final seconds of the Cleveland Cavaliers' thrilling 98-95 win over the Indiana Pacers in Game 5 on Wednesday night, before LeBron James hit the buzzer-beating gamewinner, you were saying either:
"What a great block!"
"That was goaltending!"
With the game tied at 95, Indiana's Victor Oladipo received a screen from Domantas Sabonis and James switched onto the Pacers All-Star, who was dribbling at the top of the key.
Oladipo feigned right, forcing James to move his feet, then crossed over to the left and drove toward the hoop. As Oladipo went up to shoot, James swooped in, just as he did in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals on Andre Iguodala of Golden State.
James blocked the basketball off the backboard, teammate J.R. Smith snatched the rebound and immediately called timeout, setting the state for James to win the game at the buzzer.
The Pacers left no doubt after the game they believed goaltending should have been called on James, as television replays indicated.
“I got a step on him (James) and got grabbed on the way to the rim,” Oladipo said through a weary laugh. “I tried to shoot a layup, it hit the backboard and he blocked it.
“The replay, I guess you guys could see it. It was a goaltending,” he said through another laugh. “It’s hard to even speak on it. It sucks. It really sucks. Even though we fought our way back and tied the game up, that was huge. I mean, give him credit where credit is due. That 3 was big-time. Definitely, that was huge. (But) who’s to say they even run that (final) play (if the Pacers have a two-point lead)? You don’t know what happens. So it sucks. It’s really unfortunate that they missed that.”
Oladipo wasn't alone in that belief.
“That was a (bleeping) goaltend!” Myles Turner yelled as he walked from the shower into the locker room.
"We can look at the replay," Pacers forward Lance Stephenson said. "Clearly, clearly a goaltending."
The play was never reviewed, as a referee's whistle is required in order to trigger a review.
Joe Borgia, NBA senior vice president of Replay and Referee Operations,
“Extremely tough play in real time it is so fast," he said. "Our rule is once the ball touches the glass, a defender cannot touch it, so you can’t hit it after he touches it. But in order to use replay, you must call goaltending on the court, and no call was made on the court, therefore they [game officials] could not come over and look at it.”
James, as you might expect, saw it differently.
“I definitely thought it was a goaltend,” he said. Then he paused and the room went silent. He waited a second or two, then smiled. “Of course, I didn’t think it was a goaltend, man…He (Oladipo) made a heck of a move, got me leaning right, he went left then I used my recovery speed and made a play on the ball."