Even though I missed watching almost all of Game 3 live because I was at a wedding, I was able to catch the final two minutes at the bar during the reception alongside fellow Nuggets fans. Maybe it was because the audio for the game was off, maybe it was because I'm a biased homer of a Nuggets fan or maybe it was because I had a few drinks in me when I watched it, but Antoine Wright's (alleged) intentional foul prior to Carmelo Anthony sinking the greatest shot in modern Nuggets history never struck me as "call worthy" while watching it live.
Admittedly I’ve had the advantage since of reading all the comments left after the Game 3 recap plus all the editorials written from both sides regarding Saturday night’s (correct) non-call on Antoine Wright. But my position remains firm: shame on the NBA for issuing an apology and tainting one of the most memorable moments in Nuggets playoff history.
Sure, Wright bumped Melo a bit, but seeing it live Saturday night and again and again on the highlights throughout Sunday, I'm still not seeing an obvious intentional foul call here (conversely, when Derek Fisher fouled Brent Barry last year and the same referee - Mark Wunderlich - didn't make the call, that was blatant negligence as Fisher clearly hammered Barry, preventing Barry from being able to make his three-point attempt). Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle knows – and his players should know – that the refs don’t want to decide the end of game, much less playoff games. If Wright wanted to foul Melo he should have actually fouled him – i.e. wrapped him up as Doc Rivers has since instructed his players to do. But instead, not only did Wright not foul Melo, but after his last bump he gave the "hands up" motion to ensure he didn’t get flagged fearing Melo would be rewarded with three free throws on the shot attempt.
As my friend Matt from Sacramento (a loyal Sacramento Kings fan and Denver Stiffs reader, imagine that) astutely pointed out in an email on Sunday morning: Would the Mavericks be complaining about the non-call if Melo had missed?
Of course not. And that point should end the argument in favor of the Mavericks position right there. Simply put, the Mavericks can't have it both ways. They can't desperately avoid sending Melo to the line for three free throw attempts while simultaneously bitch that a call should have been made.
Furthermore, if the Mavericks want to be mad at someone, they should be mad at themselves for blowing a must-win playoff home game in which Melo shot 9-24, J.R. Smith shot 3-10, Nene shot 2-10 and Chris Andersen fouled out. Have fun trying to beat our Nuggets when those four have average nights in Game 4. And let's not forget the Mavericks allowing Melo to literally waltz right into the basket for an easy dunk (a la what the Hawks have been allowing LeBron James to do) with about 30 seconds left, cutting a four-point lead to two. That was inexcusably embarrassing.
But losers blame the refs while winners move on to play another game or series. And that’s why the Mavericks are on the losing end of an insurmountable 3-0 series deficit right now.
Beyond the controversy surrounding the play, I think it's fair to ask: Was Carmelo Anthony’s game-winning shot in Game 3 the single greatest shot in Denver Nuggets franchise history?
As a self proclaimed amateur Nuggets historian, I’ve been racking my brain for a whole day now trying to come up with a shot bigger than the one Melo hit with a second left on Saturday night and am embarrassed to admit that I can’t seem to top it.
Unfortunately, when your favorite team has only a handful of division title banners in the rafters, has only appeared in two Western Conference Finals in its 32 year NBA history and has a franchise winning percentage that’s below .500, you don’t have a lot of memorable buzzer-beating shots that come to mind...especially in the playoffs.
When we think about the all-time great postseason shots, we think of Michael Jordan's hanging jumper over the Cavaliers Craig Ehlo in 1989, or Rex Chapman’s catch-and-shoot to lead his Suns to overtime against the Supersonics in 1997, or Reggie Miller’s eight points in 8.9 seconds to knock out the Knicks in 1995, or Ralph Sampson’s tip shot to drop the Lakers in 1986, or John Stockton's incredible series-winning three-pointer against the Rockets in Game 6 in 1997, or Kobe Bryant’s pop and shot against the Suns in 2006, or even Ray Allen’s game-tying three over Joakim Noah two weeks ago, or Derek Fisher’s game-winner with 0.4 seconds left against the Spurs in 2004, and so on. You know the list. It’s ingrained into every NBA fan’s brain. And there isn’t a single Nuggets shot on that list, until now thanks to Melo.
I just hope the NBA sees the errors of their ways, rescinds that ridiculous "apology" and includes Melo's big shot in future "Where Amazing Happens" highlight packages.