Archive for June 8th, 2011

Close backcourt violation near end of Game 4 – almost a huge blunder for Dallas

June 8th, 2011 8 comments

We’ll be doing our analysis of many of the missed ref calls in Tuesday’s Game 4 Finals game over the next two days before Thursday’s Game 5, so please be patient if you’re looking for those.

Before we feature all of the missed or wrong calls, though, we wanted to feature one play that the refs got right (in our opinion). It was a big one.

With 9 seconds remaining in the game and the Mavericks leading 84-83, it was the inbounds throw-in play by Dallas’ Jason Kidd to teammate Jason Terry into the backcourt.

Kidd threw the ball toward Terry with the intention of the ball landing in the backcourt — to use the extra space the backcourt provides — so Terry could pick it up and gain possession.

But what happened is that Terry was just a few inches away from being called for a backcourt violation, and he might not have known it because it came within a split second of happening.

If Terry had not stepped on the backcourt line and had stepped just an inch before it, he probably would have been ruled to have still been in the frontcourt when he touched the ball. Then when he started to dribble it in the backcourt, he could have been ruled to have committed a backcourt violation.

We checked the rulebook, and this apparently would have been the ruling since the concept of the ball “breaking the plane” of the midcourt line applies to the ball going into the FRONTCOURT, not the backcourt. So that provision wouldn’t apply.

We picked through the rulebook and believe that since Terry had established a positive position in the backcourt by stepping on the line, he was “legal.”

But if someone else has a different interpretation of the rulebook’s somewhat complex language regarding backcourt violations in the last two minutes of the fourth quarter, we’re open to hearing it. Some scenarios aren’t explicitly spelled out in the rulebook, so you have to go through the process of elimination to decide what the ruling should be.

Considering the fraction of the second that elapsed between Terry stepping on the midcourt line and touching the ball, and the premise that if you’re going to make sure you’re in the backcourt you won’t step on the line but over it, it’s probably safe to say that Terry was very lucky from being involved in one of the most infamous turnovers in recent NBA Finals history.

So give the refs credit, specifically Monty McCutchen, for not calling a backcourt violation. But it wouldn’t surprise us McCutchen or the other refs got a little lucky considering how quickly it all happened, and the fact that backcourt/frontcourt rulings are a little complex. Most of the backcourt violation rules are detailed about going FROM the backcourt TO the frontcourt (naturally) in comparison to throw-ins in the last two minutes of the fourth quarter and overtime when throwing the ball into the backcourt is allowed.

And surprisingly, backcourt violations are not reviewable by replay, which they should be in our opinion. The rules are so intricate and detailed compared to other rules, and backcourt violations don’t occur all that often (especially in the last two minutes of game). So giving the refs the ability to review plays that can be a matter of inches, or even breaking the plane of the midcourt line similar to how the NFL reviews goal line plays, seems to make a lot of sense.

Until that happens, it wouldn’t surprise us if refs have an “omission bias” toward calling backcourt violations because the consequences of making the wrong call could be huge. That’s why we think McCutchen may have been lucky — if he was experiencing omission bias — since not calling anything was the right call. But that may not be the case the next time.

If you haven’t checked out the video yet as you’re reading this, you’ll also see a dramatic clip where Kidd probably realizes how close of a play it will be as it happens, hoping and praying that Terry won’t touch the ball until he’s in the backcourt.

Missed travels by Dallas (Game 3). Plus, an admission from Mark Jackson about constant missed traveling

June 8th, 2011 No comments

We know you’re reading this post after Tuesday’s Game 4 in the Finals is over, but we still have some business from Game 3 to finish before moving on to Game 4. We regret we didn’t have enough time to publish a video of all the ref calls we thought the refs got right in Game 3. There was just too much stuff to cover that we believe the refs got wrong, which we’ve done over the past couple of days through other posts.

In the video below are the Dallas travels the refs missed in Game 3 (the Heat’s missed travels are here).

In the video is some of my favorite dialogue from national TV announcers about missed violations from the refs. In the last clip at about the 1:20 mark, Jeff Van Gundy calls out the refs for missing an obvious Jason Kidd travel, which must have made play-by-play guy Mike Breen and analyst Mark Jackson uncomfortable because they had just been raving about how Kidd was so smart to fake out Dwyane Wade to get him to foul him and said nothing about the travel. Personally speaking, we lose alot of respect for announcers who don’t point out the most obvious of travels that are missed.

After Van Gundy opened up about Kidd’s travel that wasn’t called, fellow analyst Mark Jackson let it fly, perhaps because he doesn’t have to worry about keeping his announcing job since he’s “outta there” after these NBA Finals are over, on his way to Golden State.

Here’s what Jackson said about what announcers are inclined to do:

“We fall in love with paying attention to the shot, but we lose sight of the traveling violation that constantly occurs.”

WOW! Beyond the millions he will make as a coach and getting back to the thrill of NBA competition, maybe this is one small reason why Jackson has decided to leave broadcasting and accepted the Golden State Warriors head coaching job on Tuesday — perhaps he’s uncomfortable that as an announcer who has to get viewers excited about the game, it wouldn’t make for good television or make the league look good to mention missed travels every time they occur, and instead talk about the athleticism or the dunk that’s demonstrated during or after the travel.

If Jackson has truly lost sight over time that travels occur, that concerns me that a new head coach in the league can lose sight of something that’s such a prevalent part of the game that gives players (his future opponents) an unfair advantage. For Jackson’s sake, I hope it’s not an indicator of his attention to detail when he’s coaching the Warriors next season.

On to other details about the video above…We had originally calculated 9 missed travels, but after looking at the video closer, we determined that Dirk Nowitzki has really perfected his dribbling such that we had to take out 3 of the plays where we thought he originally traveled.

What Nowitzki is able to do better than what we’ve seen with other players is cut down on the little baby step they take after completing their dribble. He does that by making sure that his hand touches the ball at about the same time the first little step is taken, not before.

As a result, you can’t say he has completed his dribble before his foot touches the floor. But it does take a little bit off of his ability to get past his defender, which is fair since that’s what may have been the intent of the people who originally wrote the rule — so defenders weren’t hung out to dry unfairly.

That means out of the 6 travels, only three were by Nowitzki, two from Jason Kidd, and one by Jose Barea. These six travels still resulted in 7 points being scored in the possessions where they weren’t called.

Here is the order of the Dallas players who had missed traveling violations in the video.

  1. Jason Kidd
  2. Jose Barea
  3. Dirk Nowitzki
  4. Dirk Nowitzki
  5. Jason Kidd
  6. Dirk Nowitzki