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Missed backcourt violation might have cost Kings vs. Hornets

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The NBA’s Last Two Minute report is not a friend of the Sacramento Kings, but they will end up taking a close look at it once again on Tuesday.

In the waning moments of the Kings’ 122-116 loss in Charlotte, there appeared to be a crucial backcourt violation by the Hornets.

With 28.8 seconds remaining and the Kings trailing by three, P.J. Washington sent an errant inbounds pass in to Terry Rozier. The ball clearly glances off Rozier's hand and heads into the backcourt, where Rozier regains possession and is fouled by Harrison Barnes.

The play is the second clip in the Tweet below.

Rozier hit both free throws to put the Hornets up 118-113, giving the home team a two-possession lead. According to the NBA rule book, the play might have been called incorrectly. 

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.

  1. 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.

This seems pretty cut and dry. Rozier touched the ball in the frontcourt, failed to control it and it went into the backcourt. Because he made contact in the frontcourt, by rule, the Hornets should not have been able to be the first team to touch it in the backcourt.

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Following the game, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer caught up with Crew Chief Sean Corbin to discuss the play.

QUESTION: “Why weren’t the Hornets called for a backcourt violation on the touch by Terry Rozier on the inbounds pass with 26.1 seconds left?”

CORBIN: “During the last two minutes a team is allowed to inbound the ball anywhere on the court. Although Terry Rozier does touch the ball, PJ 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.”

QUESTION: “Is it fair, based on what you just said to say that Terry never gained possession of the ball in the front court, he just touched it.” 

CORBIN: “Yes.”

The rule book is pretty cut and dry and the explanation of the play and interpretation of the rule doesn’t make a lot of sense. At worse, the officiating crew should have reviewed the play and busted open a rule book, but that did not happen.

Walton could have challenged the play, but only the foul call against Barnes would have been reviewable for a coaches challenge.

The Kings made plenty of mistakes that led to their own demise, but in the end, the play in question drastically reduced the Kings’ potential to make a comeback. We’ll have to wait and see what the Last Two Minute report has to say about the situation on Tuesday, although it won’t impact the final outcome of the game.