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Clock malfunction costs Magic chance to take game winner vs. Lakers

Magic Lakers Basketball

Los Angeles Lakers head coach Luke Walton and Orlando Magic head coach Frank Vogel, hidden in a crowd of Magic players, waiting for a ruling on the final play of the game in the second half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles Wednesday, March 7, 2018. The Lakers won, 108-107. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)


It was a strange ending in Los Angeles. The referees followed the rule book — and that screwed the Orlando Magic out of a chance at a game-winner to beat the Lakers.

Here’s what happened. After a driving Aaron Gordon bucket had the Magic up by one with 5 seconds left in the game, the Lakers had their final chance of the night and got the ball down low to Brook Lopez, who was fouled on his shot attempt with just 0.6 seconds remaining. Lopez hit both free throws, and the Lakers were up 108-107. Orlando called a timeout to set up one last play, and to advance the ball to half court.

On the inbound pass (Orlando attempted an alley-oop) the clock started the second the ball left the hand of the sideline passer — not when it was touched inbounds, as is the rule. The clock expired while the ball was in midair, untouched.

However, the rule there is that if the clock expires while the ball is in the air due to a clock malfunction (meaning nobody has possession of the ball), then time is put back on the clock and the ball is jumped at center court. The Magic didn’t get another chance at an inbound play, it had to be a jump ball at center court.

To be clear, both a scorekeeper on the sidelines can start the clock, as can any of the referees on the court. It’s unclear who made the mistake this time.

Orlando coach Frank Vogel was understandably hot after this — logic dictates the Magic get a do-over on the out of bounds play. However, that’s not the rule — it does state if there’s no possession then the ball will be jumped at center court.

The rules committee should look at this. It’s unlikely the Magic score on that last play, but they should have had another chance.