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Clippers-Thunder Game 5: Tony Brothers Lied

The next day the final seconds of Game 5 make even less sense than they did at the time. The biggest question to me is why the crew chief says they did not see a replay that in fact they did see.

Ronald Martinez

It's the next day, and I'm still amazed at the amount of misinformation out there concerning the final seconds of Game 5 between the Los Angeles Clippers and the Oklahoma City Thunder. Stu Jackson has backed off of his Rule 8, Section II-c justification. Amazingly, I still see plenty of supposedly informed basketball people throwing it around, but as I explained last night, it is being wildly misapplied in an irresponsible manner, and it just needs to stop. If the ball goes off of Reggie Jackson's right hand, it doesn't matter that Matt Barnes hit Jackson's left hand. Obviously. We shouldn't have to waste time on this; I'm saddened that we are. But to repeat myself:

To say that this rule justifies the call is a MASSIVE misinterpretation. This rule is an obvious and logical extension of the rule that states that "the hand is part of the ball" (a rule that is itself incredibly misunderstood). So sure, if player A hits player B in the hand, never touching the ball, and the ball goes DIRECTLY out of bounds as a result, then player B's team would retain possession. But you don't ignore everything that occurs from the contact until the ball goes out of bounds. By [Stu] Jackson's interpretation, if player A hit player B's hand after which the ball clearly, indisputably caromed off player B's knee before going out of bounds, player B's team would retain possession because the sequence started with player A hitting player B's hand and dislodging the ball. That is clearly not what the rule states, and if Jackson (or the TNT crew for that matter) doesn't understand that then he's a moron. This explanation -- which was NOT the one provided by crew chief Tony Brothers, by the way -- is a complete non-starter. It's not worthy of serious consideration. It does not apply to this play, and anyone who doesn't realize that is delusional or stupid. Next.

Jackson instead is now saying that:

(a) he thinks the refs made the right call on the floor, apparently because it's the call they made. In his mind, if they made that call, it was right, because that's what they thought at the time, and that's why we have replay. So glad we cleared that up.

(b) the replays were inconclusive -- which is simply not true. It's worth noting that the standard in the NBA is "'Clear and conclusive' visual evidence needed to overturn original call by officials." The NFL standard is "Indisputable visual evidence." Obviously, either is open to interpretation, but the NBA, to it's credit, has in the past invariably applied a reasonable standard to overturning; if the replay shows that the call was wrong, as it does in this case, they almost always overturn it.

The bigger problem the next day is the question of replay angles available to the officiating crew. Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports has raised the question of who decides which angles are shown to the crew. As I said last night, if the person making that decision draws a salary from the Oklahoma City Thunder then this is a much bigger problem.

But there's a more basic problem here: crew chief Tony Brothers lied. After the game, in justifying the call, Brothers stated: "We saw two replays. The two replays we saw were from the overhead camera showing down, and the one from from under the basket showing the same angle but from a different view. And from those two replays it was inconclusive as to who the ball went out of bounds off of bounds off of."

But on the TNT broadcast, at 9:22:53 PM PT, the VERY FIRST REPLAY shown to the officiating crew comes from the sideline camera. The TNT cameras show the crew at the monitor, and you can see the replay commencing -- not the overhead view, not the baseline view, the sideline view.

Now, to my mind, all three views show plenty of evidence that the ball was off of Jackson. But Brothers and his crew did see the sideline view; we know they say it, we see them see it! Which means that Brothers felt he needed plausible deniability on the decision, and he lied. Which seems... shall we say, problematic.

Last point for now: the mantra at this point is to say that there's nothing to be done about it, that the NBA isn't going to reverse the call, that the score is in the books, right or wrong. But that's not necessarily true. There is a precedent for replaying the final seconds of this game.

In December 2008, in a game between the Heat and the Hawks in Atlanta, Shaquille O'Neal was ruled to have fouled out after committing his sixth foul, but it was later determined that the official scorer (an employee of the Hawks) had miscounted and the Shaq had only five fouls when he was disqualified. The NBA decided to replay the final 51.9 seconds of that game -- even though O'Neal had since been traded from Miami to Phoenix. Surely a playoff game is more important than a random game in December? The point is, the NBA can replay the final 11.3 seconds -- make the score 104-102 Clippers, give the ball to the Clippers out of bounds as it should have been, and replay the ending. There is a precedent, it is possible.

They won't do it of course. Then again, there's a new sheriff in town. I didn't think Adam Silver would drop the hammer on Donald Sterling, but he did. Adam -- you've got another chance to do the right thing and help your beleaguered association.