Yesterday the NBA released the Last Two Minute Report for the Nuggets heartbreaking loss to Memphis on Tuesday night. According to the NBA Officiating website, this report is released by the NBA officiating department following games that are within five points at the two-minute mark, and is an assessment of all calls (whistles) and notable non-calls with final rulings given in each circumstance.
If you'll remember, the last few minutes of the Nuggets - Grizzlies game offered a few questionable calls and non-calls, but none had more impact on the outcome than the turnover made by the Nuggets on an inbounds play with 04.7 seconds left. A botched pass led to a fast break by Mike Conley, who subsequently appeared to lose control as the ball went out of bounds:
The officials initially called it Grizzlies ball under the impression that Nuggets guard Emmanuel Mudiay touched the ball after Conley lost control. They then went to review the play, and based on the video evidence at the time determined that the call was correct. With .07 seconds left, Memphis proceeded to inbound the ball on an easy lob to Marc Gasol and win the game.
However, after reviewing the officiating following the game, the league came out with this statement:
Angles reviewed in the Replay Center appeared to show Mudiay (DEN) touch the ball prior to it going out of bounds. The call on the floor was therefore confirmed as MEM possession. However, upon review of an additional angle postgame, it was determined that Mudiay did not touch the ball and possession should have been awarded to DEN.
In the report the NBA admitted that they messed up and that the Nuggets should have been awarded the ball on that final possession. With less than a second remaining, it is nearly certain that Denver would have therefore won the game. Instead of having a 3-4 record, the Nuggets should be 4-3.
Regarding the report, head coach Michael Malone had this to say:
The replay center failed us. We lost a game, and granted we did a lot of things during that game that did not help us win. But when it comes down to a review by the replay center to determine whose ball it is, and the ball is awarded to Memphis when it should have been awarded to us, and they therefore take advantage of the situation to score, that's a very tough pill to swallow.
Obviously we're looking at every and any way to see what our options are moving forward, to see if there's any way to change the outcome of the game, to replay the final .07 seconds of the game, whatever it may be. Certain calls are not reviewable... but out of bounds and possession is one of the things they spend a lot of time on at our head coaches meetings and GMs meetings, talking about how effective and great the replay center is. Well it wasn't that great the other night and I feel bad for our guys because we did enough to win that game, and we didn't because of an error made in Secaucus."
Malone then said that after speaking with Tim Connelly and Josh Kroenke, the Nuggets reached out to the NBA to voice their displeasure at the officiating and review center and to see what the options are moving forward.
But is there any merit to such a protest? As a matter of fact, there is.
In 2008 in a game between the Atlanta Hawks and the Miami Heat, the official scorer incorrectly ruled that Heat center Shaquille O'Neal had fouled out of the game with 51.9 seconds remaining when in reality he had only picked up his fifth foul. Atlanta went on to win the game, but following a similar protest the Hawk's win and the Heat's loss were temporarily removed from the record books until they could replay the final 51.9 seconds the next time the two teams met.
Is there any guarantee that the NBA will make a similar ruling in this instance? No, but precedence from the Hawks - Heat debacle eight years ago certainly helps. The league has shown in the past (albeit with former commissioner David Stern) that it is flexible and open to correcting mistakes that could impact the results of games. While questionable officiating occurs in every game, in this particular instance the incorrect call directly led to an unfavorable outcome for one team, an outcome that otherwise wouldn't have happened.
Adam Silver has already proven to be an effective commissioner and bring positive change to the NBA. It is only fair that this case be reviewed and corrected. As in 2008, all the league needs to do is temporarily remove the results from the record books and allow the final .07 seconds to be played the next time Denver plays Memphis, which will be February 1, 2017. The Nuggets can then inbound the ball and get the win that they deserve.
The ball is in the NBA's court now. Let's hope they make the right call this time.