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Cavs Notes

NBA Finals: League defends controversial block/charge call reversal that was turning point in Cavaliers' Game 1 loss

  • NBA-Finals-Cavaliers-Warriors-Basketball-10

    Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant (35) reacts to a call while standing over LeBron James during the second half of Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Thursday night in Oakland, Calif.

    AP

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Upon further review, the Cavaliers don’t think there should have been a review in the first place.

The NBA, on the other hand, said Friday in its “Last Two Minute Report” that officials Ken Mauer, Tony Brothers and Ed Malloy got it right.

In an incredibly entertaining but highly controversial Game 1 of the NBA Finals — the Golden State Warriors eventually prevailed 124-114 in overtime Thursday night — the most talked-about play occurred with 36.4 seconds left in regulation.

With the Cavs leading 104-102, Golden State’s Kevin Durant crashed into LeBron James while driving to the hoop, with “trail” official Brothers starting to signal a block while “lead” referee Mauer — the play occurred in his “primary” area — began to signal a charge.

Brothers backed off on his call, while Mauer followed through and called a charge. However, there was some question among the officials whether James had gotten outside the “restricted area” — the semi-circle near the basket — and that served as the “trigger” that made the play reviewable.

That, in turn, also made the charge call reviewable, and the officials changed it to a block on James, who leaned left at the last instant as Durant was leaping into the air.

Durant then made two free throws to tie the game and the Cavs failed to capitalize at the end of regulation when George Hill missed the second of two free throws with 4.7 seconds to go and the score tied at 107. Cleveland’s J.R. Smith got the rebound, but time expired before the Cavs got off a shot.

“The crew was not reasonably certain whether James (CLE) was in the restricted area after an offensive foul was called against Durant (GSW),” the league said in its Last Two Minute Report. “Upon replay review, it was confirmed that James was outside the restricted area.

“The referees also reviewed whether James was in a legal guarding position, which is an additional reviewable matter for this replay trigger. Replay showed James was not in legal guarding position because he was turning his body and moving into Durant when contact occurred. Thus the initial call on the floor was overturned and James was assessed a blocking foul.”

The way Cavs coach Tyronn Lue saw it, the play never should have been reviewed because James was clearly outside the restricted area. Replays confirmed both his feet were at least a foot — and probably more — outside the semi-circle.

“He wasn’t close, so what are we reviewing?” Lue said at the interview podium following the game. “Either call a blocking foul or call on offensive foul. For our team to come out and play their hearts out and compete the way we did, man, I mean, it’s bad.

“In The Finals on the biggest stage, when our team played well, played our (butt) off, man, it ain’t right. It ain’t right.”

It wasn’t the only controversial play, as Cleveland’s Tristan Thompson was assessed a Flagrant Foul 2 — and automatic ejection — by Brothers when he fouled Shaun Livingston with 2.6 seconds remaining in OT and the Warriors up eight.

That led to an altercation between Thompson and Golden State’s Draymond Green, with Thompson eventually throwing the ball at Green’s face and also making contact with his hand on the follow-through.

The NBA didn’t announce any further disciplinary action against Thompson or Green on Friday, and it traditionally makes no announcement at all if additional punishment is deemed unnecessary, though there’s still a chance something could be released today.

A league source confirmed no disciplinary action would be taken against the Cavs’ Kevin Love, who was already away from the team’s bench area before the Thompson-Green altercation began.

The Last Two Minute Report also said Green should have been called for a foul against James with 12.1 seconds left in regulation, meaning James would have been shooting two free throws with the Cavs down one prior to Hill going to the line.

In addition, the report said Green committed a lane violation as Hill missed the second of his two free throws, but put that in the “incidental or immaterial” category.

The block-charge play featuring James and Durant, however, was the big topic of conversation heading into Game 2, which will be Sunday at 8 p.m. at Oracle Arena.

“I read that play just as well as I’ve read any play in my career, maybe in my life,” James said after the game. “I seen the play happening. I knew I was outside the charge line, and I knew I took the hit. I don’t know what else to say.”

Durant saw the play differently.

“Last year in the regular season, same play happened to me,” he said. “It was a block. They called it a block, and they went and reviewed it and changed it to a charge.

“I knew he was late on the drive, and I knew I had my man beat and he came over a little late. So when they called the charge, I was surprised, but I’m glad they reviewed it.”

When asked by a pool reporter about the call and subsequent review, Mauer said: “The reason for the trigger is that we had doubt as to whether or not James was in the restricted area. When over at the (scorer’s) table, we then are allowed to determine whether or not he was in a legal guarding position.

“It was determined he was out of the restricted area, but he was not in legal guarding position prior to Durant’s separate shooting motion, so we had to change it to a blocking foul.”

As for Thompson’s flagrant foul against Livingston, it wasn’t mentioned in the Last Two Minute Report because the point differential was greater than three points.

Livingston was dribbling down the clock, but instead of taking a 24-second violation, he launched a jumper and Thompson took offense.

“I contested a shot that shouldn’t have been taken,” Thompson said. “I mean, it’s like the unspoken rule in the NBA: If you’re up by 10 or 11 with about 20 seconds left, you don’t take that shot.

“I made the running contest, and next thing I know I was being kicked out for making a running contest that we learn in training camp. I don’t know why I got thrown out.”

Asked about the call by a pool reporter after the game, Brothers said, “From the angle that I had on the floor, as (Thompson) is coming toward Livingston, his elbow is up high and it appears to hit (Livingston) in the head when he is coming toward him, so that’s why I called the foul and ejected him.”

Replays indicated Thompson made no contact with Livingston’s head — Livingston didn’t even react after the whistle blew — but some other late-game shenanigans occurred moments prior.

With the Warriors comfortably ahead in OT, James swatted a layup attempt by Stephen Curry off the backboard, then stared at him. The two had words, then Warriors shooting guard Klay Thompson also said something to James.

“Just words exchanged on a good block and keep it moving on my end,” Curry said. “It’s going to happen. There’s going to be chatter. We’ve gotten very familiar with each other over the last four years (in The Finals).”

Friday was an off day for the teams from a media standpoint, with only the coaches and two players — Klay Thompson and Hill — required to take part in conference calls.

“It’s a tough call,” Lue said of the block-charge play. “We understand that. But now we’ve got to bounce back and be ready for Game 2. Our guys were disappointed about the loss, but it’s behind us now.”

Asked about any further disciplinary action against Tristan Thompson, Lue said, “I haven’t heard anything yet, but I know the league will do the right thing.”

Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or rnoland@medina-gazette.com. Follow him @RickNoland on Twitter.


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