SACRAMENTO -- The Toronto Raptors have decided to file an official protest with the NBA over their 102-99 loss to the Sacramento Kings on Sunday afternoon, according to multiple reports.
The protest stems from a last second 3-point shot by Terrence Ross that was initially ruled a basket by on-court officials.
Upon further review with league officials in the replay booth in Secaucus, New York, the initial call was overturned after it was ruled that Kings All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins tipped the ball coming from the inbounder, which should have triggered an earlier start of the official game clock.
“I knew I tipped it, I knew he didn’t get it off in time,” Cousins said following the game. “I knew the clock didn’t start on time. I also knew we were going into overtime. That’s how things usually work for us, meaning the Kings.”
The ruling handed Sacramento the win, instead of extending the game into a five minute overtime session.
Following the contest, the NBA backed up their call of the game in the game’s official “last two-minute report,” stating:
“The on-court referees noticed a clock malfunction on the inbounds play and correctly triggered an instant replay. After communicating with the Replay Center, it was determined that the clock should have started when Cousins (SAC) tips the ball and run to 0:00.00 before Ross’ (TOR) shot was released.”
A closer examination of the play shows that Cousins’ tip of the ball should have added slightly more than .1 of a second to the play, which put the release of the ball from Ross’ hand after the expiration of the clock by .1 of a second.
The controversy forced the NBA to release a second statement, once again backing the ruling of the final play, which they released on Monday.
“After review at the league office, we have concluded that the end of the game was officiated correctly by NBA rules. We reviewed all aspects of the final 27.4 seconds and below is a summary of our evaluation.
Toronto inbounded the ball with 2.4 seconds remaining in the game, and the clock did not start when the pass was deflected by Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins. Per the NBA’s precision timing system, the clock can be started by either the referees or the clock operator. The referees noticed the clock malfunction immediately which triggered a replay review under rule 13.1.a.5, which states that a review must occur if ‘a play concludes (i) with no time remaining on the clock (0:00) at the end of any period or (ii) at a point when the game officials believe that actual time may have expired in any period; and the officials are reasonably certain that the game clock malfunctioned during the play.
Per rule 13.2.e.1, the Replay Center was then tasked with determining ‘the proper time (if any) on the game clock following the clock malfunction by determining how much time on the game clock actually expired.’ To determine how much time actually expired, Replay Center referee Zach Zarba used a digital timer on the Replay Center screen. The determination was that 2.5 seconds expired, thus negating the basket.”
According to ESPN’s Marc Stein, the NBA has only overturned a protested call once in the last 33 years, making the protest a longshot at best.
Following the report, Raptors president Masai Ujiri gave his opinion of the situation to the Toronto Star:
“Mistakes in basketball are inevitable, we deal with them on a daily basis no matter the team or player. But wins and losses in the NBA are finite and last night goes down as a loss on our record. At some point, these calls start piling up and matter at the end of the season. Calls like these are demoralizing to our players, coaches, staff, and even our fans. We all expect better than this.”
"When Terrence caught the ball near half court,” Ujiri added. “He knew he only had a couple of seconds to shoot the ball before time expired, but he also knew he had a clock above the backboard to glance up at as time winded down. Unfortunately, the clock he needed to look at was in New Jersey."
Unfortunately for Ujiri and his club, the league is well within its rights to review the final play and they have made their ruling known multiple times.
The video replay clearly shows Ross change direction to recover the ball after the tip by Cousins. While he relied on the game clock above the basket, Ross also should have taken into account that there was potential for replay and that the timeline of the game could be altered.
Sacramento found themselves in a similar situation during the 2014-15 season. In a Nov 13 contest against the Memphis Grizzlies, the Kings held a 110-109 lead with .4 remaining on the clock. Memphis’ attempt to inbounds the ball appeared to tip off the fingers of Sacramento’s Ryan Hollins before ending up in the hands of Grizzlies guard Courtney Lee.
Lee hit a game-winning layup as time expired, sending the Kings to a heartbreaking 111-110 loss. Like Toronto, Sacramento filed a protest with the league, but the NBA failed to overturn the loss, sighting a lack of visual evidence.
The Raptors have five business days to present their case to the NBA, after which the league has five business days to respond with a ruling.