In what can only be described as a truly bizarre moment of play, the Warriors got a free basket after a timeout where the Mavericks believed they had possession. It’s caused Dallas and owner Mark Cuban to file an official protest for just the 36th time in NBA history.
Could anything come of the Dallas Mavericks’ official protest, potentially putting the Golden State Warriors’ 127-125 victory in jeopardy?
The short answer is no or highly unlikely. Straight after the game, Cuban sought to share his version of events on social media. Unfortunately for him, part of what he said was completely false.
What actually happened?
Late in the third-quarter, the ball went out of bounds on the baseline with the referee signalling Warrior ball. Almost immediately, Dallas called a timeout and the same referee signalled as such. Because of the immediate nature of both calls, the Mavericks and others believed the timeout signal was actually a decision reversal and that it was their ball.
Kevon Looney immediately turned around to demonstrate with the referee, only for him to assure the Warriors’ center that it was indeed the timeout signal not a change of possession. However, the ref had tricked the home announcer who, during the timeout, declared it Dallas ball.
It then appeared as if the Mavericks players thought they were advancing the ball to half-court, leaving all five of them on their offensive end of the floor. The officials didn’t notify or clarify with Dallas that it was still Warrior ball, leaving the visitors to inbound the ball on the baseline and get a dunk in a literal five on zero situation.
During his twitter tirade, Cuban stated that “during the time out the official changed the call and never told us.” That’s factually incorrect — the call never changed, only that the Mavericks thought it had changed to their ball, then back to Warrior ball during the timeout.
Why the Warriors should have nothing to worry about
Objectively, the referee/s did nothing wrong. Now, you can have a genuine argument about two things. One, should they have notified the announcer had they heard them report it incorrectly? Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, should the referees have notified the Dallas players that they were out of position, allowing them to get back on defense before Golden State inbounded the ball?
Even if you answer yes to both those questions, it’s subjective and lends itself to more of a moral dilemma. Any successful protest and subsequent replay of game should come from an objectively wrong decision or mistake.
For example, the last time a game was replayed was 2008 in a matchup between the Atlanta Hawks and Miami Heat. During overtime, Shaquille O’Neal received his sixth foul, only for it to emerge afterwards that one of his previous fouls should have been awarded to Udonis Haslem instead. In a later matchup between the teams that season, the NBA had the teams play the last 51.9 seconds which was the point O’Neal had fouled out. It turns out neither team scored and the final score remained 114-111.
Perhaps Dallas can argue their point and have something come of it. The other issue though is that Golden State could easily argue that, had they knew the game was still in the balance, they would have better contested Reggie Bullock’s three-pointer at the final buzzer that saw the margin reduce from five to two. The Mavericks can feel hard done by sure, but it’s hard to see the result changing in any way.