Nuggets-Thunder (Game 1): Refs miss goaltending violation that gives OKC late lead
Last night during the Denver-Oklahoma City game, there was a controversial no-call that announcer Mike Fratello was jumping on the refs for not calling, and Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley were ridiculing the refs on the post-game show that it was a violation that should have been called.
Well, all of them were half right.
Our analysis of the play (video below) where OKC’s Kendrick Perkins tips in a basket that could have been a goaltending violation — based off reading the official NBA rulebook — reveals that it was NOT a violation if you’re just looking at the aspect of the player touching the net while tipping in a ball.
HOWEVER, we do think it was goaltending simply because the ball was still above the imaginary cylinder when it was touched, regardless of the net being touched while doing so. As a result, the refs missed the call, which was huge since it gave the Thunder a 102-101 lead with 1:06 remaining. OKC went on to win the game.
The refs who were working the game were Steve Javie (#29), Zach Zarba (#55), and Bill Kennedy (#58).
I can understand that it’s tough for the refs to see real-time if a ball is above the cylinder or not when it’s touched. With the luxury of the video replay (the angle from above the basket), it clearly shows that it was in the cylinder.
You would think in the last two minutes of a game, the refs could review the instant replay, but believe it or not, this is not a reviewable play. We believe it should be – the refs need help in crucial situations like this! What do you think?
It’s a very rare play to see a player so brazen to go through the net to try to tip-in a ball since the chances of getting called for goaltending are very high, so your first instinct is to think touching the net like this is a violation.
But we looked it up in the rulebook, and there is no mention that touching the net alone for a rebound or a tip-in is an issue. It may be a goaltending if the ball is above the imaginary cylinder, but touching the net is not a problem.
Just think about it — if a player were just going after a rebound above rim level (not directly above the rim) and they accidentally touched the net before touching the ball, should it be goaltending just because they touched the net? No. The relevant issue is if the ball is above the cylinder.
What may be confusing people is that it IS a violation if you try to pop the ball out as it’s going through the basket, Here’s what the rulebook says officially:
- A player shall not touch the ball at any time with a hand which is through the basket ring.
Notice it reads “through the basket ring” (a.k.a. the “rim”). Perkins didn’t go through the bottom of the rim to touch the ball. He touched the ball from the side.
The rulebook mentions the net specifically in two other line items.
– A player shall not vibrate the rim, net or backboard so as to cause the ball to make an unnatural bounce, or bend or move the rim to an off-center position when the ball is touching the ring or passing through.
– A player shall not touch the rim, net or ball while the ball is in the net, preventing it from clearing the basket.
These clauses have nothing to do with this situation since touching the net didn’t cause the ball to make an unnatural bounce, and the ball was not in the net.
That said, I would bet the refs didn’t know what to think since it’s extremely rare for this to happen, so “omission bias” kicked in and they decided not to make the call and be wrong about their interpretation. And it’s not like they could go to the replay and review it since it’s not a reviewable play!
This example just shows you how hard it is to be a ref when something you rarely see happens, and you have to make a split-decision, referring to your knowledge of a detailed rulebook, and knowing what’s reviewable and what’s not. It was almost like a “perfect storm” when you also take into consideration how difficult it is to determine if a ball is above the cylinder, like in this case.
Through this video, though, it astonishes us that announcers like Fratello (a former NBA coach) and even former players (Kenny and Charles, who aren’t on the video) are so quick to jump and say a violation occurred when the rules don’t support it. You’d think they would at least say, “We’ll have to look that one up and get back to you.”
UPDATE: Right after we posted this piece, the NBA came out with an announcement this afternoon that the basket shouldn’t have counted, just as we analyzed above. You have to at least give the NBA credit for coming out with this release. More details here.