Video: Spurs drop Game 6 to Heat after two debatable no-calls in final seconds
Almost every competitive NBA game features blown calls and costly no-calls, errors which are only magnified in games of greater import. It should go without saying, then, that a hotly contested Game 6 in the NBA Finals that came down to an overtime period and a string of clutch plays would have its officiating warts. Joey Crawford, Mike Callahan and Ken Mauer made some mistakes on Tuesday night, and two no-calls in particular -- both of which would have resulted in crucial free throws for San Antonio -- have drawn attention in both the waning moments of Game 6 and its analytical wake.
The first such play came with just a few seconds remaining in overtime, shortly after the Spurs had collected a rebound and pushed the ball upcourt to contest the Heat's one-point lead. With Tony Parker subbed out of the game, Manu Ginobili took control of the possession and looked to create off the dribble. After gathering the ball near the three-point line, Ginobili attempted to push past Ray Allen to the rim, but lost control after Allen appeared to make contact with Ginobili's right arm:
This is as difficult a play to officiate in real time as you're likely to find, in that Ginobili is obscured from most every angle by the glut of Heat defenders around him. He hunches over to protect the ball on his drive, and because of the cover it's difficult to tell whether Allen actually fouls Ginobili when watching the play at full speed -- and that's with the beneficial viewpoint of an above-court camera. The play seems a bit more cut and dry when viewed in slow motion from the baseline angle, as Allen appears to dislodge the ball by way of striking Ginobili's arm.
That said, Ginobili manages to move -- while contested, mind you -- from the three-point line into the deep paint without a single dribble. Ginobili's footwork is exceptionally clever in general, but in this case he mistimes his gather and commits an unwhistled traveling violation:
The specific wording of the traveling rule, for reference, comes courtesy of the NBA’s 2012-13 official rules (Rule 10, Section XIII, item b):
“A player… upon completion of a dribble, may take two steps in coming to a stop, passing or shooting the ball …
The first step occurs when a foot, or both feet, touch the floor after gaining control of the ball.”
So on this single play, we find a clear missed foul and a clear missed travel. That's a wash of no-calls, I suppose. Spurs fans are right to be grumpy about the lack of a whistle on what could have been a game-winning drive, and Heat fans can fairly retort that Ginobili was only fouled because he traveled to the spot in the first place.
The plot thickens, believe it or not, with another questionable no-call just moments later. Both this sequence and the one in the previous clip take place with under five seconds remaining in overtime, as the Spurs advanced the ball to halfcourt for one final fling after a pair of Allen free throws stretched Miami's lead to 103-100. Tim Duncan triggered the inbound and threw a perfect pass to Danny Green -- who had cut toward the ball as part of the play's setup, then wheeled around a Tiago Splitter back screen to the far wing. Green catches the ball with enough time to rise and fire, but Chris Bosh tracked the play and smothers Green's attempt from the corner:
This play is a bit closer to the borderline, as it requires us to determine how much lower body contact is acceptable on a jump shot.
Bosh definitely makes contact with Green as a result of jumping into him, but is there enough of a bump to constitute a clear foul call? A fair case could be made in either regard. I'm inclined to slightly favor a no-call on this play, but it certainly toes the line of incidental lower-body contact in the defense of a shooter.