NBA backs the ridiculous Clippers-Thunder Game 5 replay call

May 15, 2014

 Sideline-angle replay viewed by NBA officials / Image from TNT

The NBA has decided to double down on the Game 5 foolishness of its officials.

Rod Thorn, NBA President, Basketball Operations, issued the following statement on Wednesday regarding the instant replay review late in the fourth quarter of the Oklahoma City Thunder’s 105-104 win over the Los Angeles Clippers on May 13, at Chesapeake Energy Arena:

“With 11.3 seconds left in the game, the basketball went out of bounds on the baseline and the referees ruled the ball belonged to the Thunder. The referees then used instant replay to review the play. In order to reverse the call made on the court, there has to be ‘clear and conclusive’ evidence. Since no replay provided such evidence, the play correctly stood as called with the Thunder retaining possession.”

(To its credit, the NBA in its statement wisely avoids Stu Jackson’s nonsensical interpretation of the “hand is a part of the ball” rule as a potential justification for the call made by the referees. That could have been even more embarrassing.)

Referee Tony Brothers' statement after Game 5 is also important to remember in the context of the NBA’s carefully worded statement.

“When the ball goes out of bounds, the ball was awarded to Oklahoma City. We go review the play. We saw two replays. The two replays we saw were from the overhead camera showing down and the one from under the basket showing the same angle but from a different view. And from those two replays, it was inconclusive as to who the ball went out of bounds of. When it’s inconclusive, we have to go with the call that was on the floor.”

Let’s put aside for a moment how on earth the two replays could possibly be “from the same angle but from a different view.” Brothers is really stating that the officiating crew somehow never saw more than two “inconclusive” replay angles (even though television viewers saw at least three different angles). This means the officials allegedly never saw the side angle replay that was by far the most conclusive of the replays on the matter.

Taking these two statements together, it appears the NBA’s position is still a little unclear. In saying “no replay provided [clear and conclusive] evidence” to the referees, I can’t tell if the NBA is asserting definitively (1) that no conclusive replays even exist, or (2) that the officials, for whatever reason, did not view a conclusive replay and therefore ruled correctly based upon the replays they did see.

Option #1 – The NBA thinks fans are blind

If the NBA is saying there were no conclusive replays around, they are nuts.

Anyone who has watched the side angle replay of the Barnes-Jackson play in slow motion – the angle allegedly not seen by the officiating crew – cannot be confused for too long. The ball was clearly off Jackson.

I would venture that for most observers, if the side angle slow motion replay showing Jackson’s right hand – not the left hand hit by the Clippers’ Matt Barnes – in direct contact with the basketball just before it goes out of bounds is not clear and convincing enough, then it’s hard to imagine what is.

Since it’s doubtful that the NBA is suggesting that most of its fans are blind, I don’t think this is what they meant.

Option #2 – The NBA is backing Brothers’ statement

The other possibility is that the NBA is merely stating, without being specific, that the officials made the correct call based upon the evidence available to them. If that is the case, then the NBA is remaining frustratingly silent on the question as to whether the referees would have ruled for OKC if all replay angles – including the side angle replay – were viewed by them.

Problem #1 with the NBA’s statement

The NBA’s statement is almost wickedly clever, because it really helps get the officials and the league off the hot seat without saying much. After all, despite the widespread anger at the officials for screwing up the call, NBA fans are more likely to forgive the referees and abandon “conspiracy theories” if the officials might never have had the chance to see the side angle replay.

The fact that the fans, Doc Rivers, and the television viewers saw the more conclusive angle but the refs didn’t is not the fault of the officials, right?

Actually, not so fast with that one.

First, it is not at all clear why the refs did not ask for more than two replay angles or, if they did, why another wasn’t provided. TNT had at least three different replays available and they were sitting right there.

Second, considering that the officials made a “series-determining call,” you might have thought they would look very, very closely at the two replays they did have available. In fact it’s arguable that the replays that Brothers admitted to viewing are sufficient enough to overturn the call. But astonishingly the refs felt they had seen enough after less than 60 seconds of review.

Excuse me? Fans and TV viewers are made to wait several minutes for replay determinations of meaningless calls in the regular season but you have to rush through a replay viewing in a playoff game?

A hasty review might be more understandable if the officials saw something very clear in the replay that made a definitive decision easy. The opposite was the case here as the officials hurriedly viewed a couple of replays only to conclude that they couldn’t conclude anything.

Well, maybe you could have if you looked a little more closely!

Problem #2 with the NBA’s statement

Okay, you might say. Maybe the officials rushed through the replay viewing a bit, but as Tony Brothers stated, the refs never saw the more definitive side angle replay so they might still have concluded the same way. In the end, the real people to blame are the individuals who didn’t provide them that side angle replay, right?

No, because here is the bigger problem. As was first pointed out by Steve Perrin, the TNT video evidence shows that the officials did see the side angle replay – the footage shows them huddled around the monitor with the side angle replay on the screen! (See image directly below this article title)

This shocking fact suggests that Tony Brothers lied about the officials never seeing the side angle replay. It also brings us back to what most people originally thought when the refs gave the ball to OKC – that the officials were consciously trying to give the ball to OKC. Why?

Back to square one – because they were trying to “make up” for the missed foul call. (Although some might suggest a more nefarious motivation, I don’t jump to that conclusion in this case.)

Think about it. Why would Brothers lie about not seeing the side angle replay? Because after viewing the “conclusive” side angle replay, it was obvious that the ball was out on Jackson. So he makes a statement after Game 5 that the refs never saw it, providing the NBA with the necessary cover for a more “understandable” mistake.


Brothers and crew did see a conclusive replay, realized they missed the foul call, and “made up” for it by giving the ball to OKC. This blatantly dishonest act damages the integrity of the NBA itself and the role of the replay system as a whole.

If the NBA is knowingly backing a Brothers’ lie (or at the least, an inaccurate statement), then the league's already questionable integrity regarding officiating is thrown into further doubt.

Of course if they did not know before that Brother's statement is incorrect, one would hope the NBA would reprimand its officials for lying when they do realize this.

Good luck with that.

By Manish Pandya
Staff Editor for

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