The NBA's Last Two Minute Report is often a mixture of salt and lemon juice in an open wound for the Sacramento Kings. Not only does it rarely give the Kings peace of mind following a loss, but often times the officials' review leads to even more frustrations.
In the Kings' 122-116 loss to the Charlotte Hornets on Monday night, P.J. Washington threw an inbounds pass to Terry Rozier that glanced off his hand and into the backcourt. Rozier recovered the ball, but not before crossing over the midcourt line. He was then fouled and increased the Hornets lead to five points at the free-throw line with 26 seconds remaining in the game.
Kings head coach Luke Walton wanted a backcourt violation called, but the officiating crew on the court refused to review the play. They even gave an explanation of the play to a pool reporter following the game that seemed counter to the league's official rule book.
“During the last two minutes a team is allowed to inbound the ball anywhere on the court," crew chief Sean Corbin told Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer. "Although Terry Rozier does touch the ball, P.J. Washington, his teammate, was passing the ball toward the midcourt line so the ball is going to go into the backcourt anyway. The fact that Terry Rozier touched the ball, any player is allowed to retrieve the ball once it’s touched anywhere on the floor.”
The interpretation from the officiating crew doesn't fall in line with the official rule book, specifically the last sentence of the final two minutes of a game exception.
According to Rule 8, Section III, Exhibit E:
Any ball out-of-bounds in a team’s frontcourt or at the midcourt line cannot be passed into the backcourt. On all backcourt and midcourt violations, the ball shall be awarded to the opposing team at the midcourt line, and must be passed into the frontcourt.
- EXCEPTION: During the last two minutes of the fourth period and the last two minutes of any overtime period, the ball may be passed anywhere (frontcourt or backcourt) on the court. However, if the ball is thrown into the frontcourt and an offensive player on the court fails to control the ball and causes it to go into the backcourt, his team may not be the first to touch the ball.
Even the Kings' De'Aaron Fox was confused by the ruling.
On Tuesday afternoon, the league released its official review of the play and backed the officiating crew on the court.
"Washington (CHA) attempts to inbound the ball to Rozier (CHA), and Rozier deflects it in the frontcourt before gaining possession of it in the backcourt. Since the pass was traveling to the backcourt, Rozier does not gain possession of the ball in the frontcourt, and inbounding the ball to the backcourt is legal in the last two minutes of play, there is no violation."
Once again, the league adds the line, "Since the pass was traveling to the backcourt" to their assessment of the play, although the intended direction of the pass is nowhere to be found in the rules of play.
None of this really matters in the grand scheme of things because the league doesn't go back and replay sections of the game for officiating errors. But some clarity on an obscure unwritten rule that could have made a tremendous difference in the outcome in the game would have been nice. And from the Kings' point of view, an officials' video and discussion on the rule in questions should have been conducted in real-time.