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April 13, 2009

The Rule That Might Decide a Division

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 12:25 am

I know I wrote earlier this year that the San Antonio Spurs have been the recipients of some good fortune in close games this season, but this was ridiculous. Earlier tonight, San Antonio hung on to defeat a scrappy Sacramento team at ARCO Arena on the strength of a tie-breaking Michael Finley three-pointer with 1.3 seconds left to play. The only problem was the shot was clearly released after the shot clock had reached zero, as the incensed Kings broadcast crew pointed out even before seeing a replay that confirmed the referee error.

Had the shot come at the end of the game, the officiating crew could have reviewed the play, but because there was still time left on the clock they had no such option. I understand the NBA’s logic here–the league doesn’t want games bogged down by endless replays–but there’s got to be some common-sense way to allow referees to go to the video on such critical plays. Maybe anything clock-related within the final minute becomes open to review? That would also rectify a clock stoppage error that worked against the Spurs, though not so dramatically in terms of the final outcome, two weeks ago.

To its credit, the NBA has been willing to work with the replay rules in the past, making a change this year that allowed officials to look at whether a basket was a two or a three at any time during the game. It helps the cause that tonight’s game could ultimately end up making the difference in the Southwest Division. With the win, San Antonio tied Houston atop the Southwest at 52-28. The Spurs finish their season by playing at Golden State tomorrow and hosting New Orleans Wednesday, while Houston gets the Hornets at home tomorrow and travels to Dallas Wednesday. It’s easy to imagine the Rockets splitting those games, and San Antonio would then be able to take the division with a sweep.

If that ends up playing out, Houston will probably be first on the phone to the commissioner’s office looking for a rule change.

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