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Clippings: The NBA is re-evaluating its end-of-game replay rules

And not a moment too soon.

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2021 NBA Playoffs - LA Clippers v Phoenix Suns Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images

One of the most dramatic moments of the NBA playoffs came in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals, when Deandre Ayton made a game-winning dunk, exploiting a little-known rule that a player cannot commit goaltending on an inbounds pass.

Clippers fans obviously lamented the play the second it happened, but even neutral observers had a hard time appreciating the theatrics because of what preceded that dunk. The last 90 seconds of that game took 33 minutes of real time because of five replay reviews, two of which were to determine possession on out-of-bounds plays.

Perhaps as a result of that finish, the Board of Governors is considering eliminating automatic reviews on those plays in the final two minutes, requiring a coach’s challenge to reverse the decision.

This is tremendous news.

First of all, these reviews often fly against the spirit of the play. If a player knocks the ball out of the opponent’s hands, it should go back to the offensive player unless it touches another part of his body. But on replay, it can be shown that the ball grazed the offensive player’s fingers, and he loses possession, an outcome that doesn’t happen in the first 46 minutes absent a challenge.

Secondly, the reviews take so much time. The technology that referees have is too good, and they parse through an unending number of angles to reach the most accurate conclusion, but that disrupts the flow of the game. No one wants stoppages to dominate the final two minutes of a high-stakes playoff bout — they want to see the two teams play basketball.

These stoppages also give teams additional timeouts while the officials go through the replays. The NBA took away timeouts to improve the pace of the game, but reviews have inadvertently added timeouts back.

Presumably, some calls will be missed without replay. No referee is perfect, and reviews can improve accuracy. But the officials are generally very good, and given that replay can ruin the integrity of some calls, this feels like an obvious win for the league’s product. Fans are going to complain about referees anyway — at least give them and the players some of their time back in the process.

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