The Trail Blazers went to Boston and picked up a huge win over the Celtics on Sunday, extending the team's winning streak to four in a row and ending the night tied for fifth place in the Western Conference.
The game was a high-scoring affair, but it was also full of a few questionable and controversial calls.
One of those calls happened with two minutes left in the game.
Marcus Smart ran into a Jusuf Nurkic screen and both players went flying to the floor. Smart, because Nurkic knocked him over. Nurkic, because Smart got in a low blow on the play.
As Nurkic laid on the court trying to get his breath back, the refs went to the monitor for review.
The initial call was just an offensive foul on Nurkic. After review, the call on Nurkic remained but the refs hit Smart with a technical foul and an ejection.
The call left Blazers play-by-play duo Jordan Kent and Lamar Hurd confused, as was everyone watching. Ejected for a technical? What was going on?
After the game, a pool reporter was sent to ask the referees about the ejection.
QUESTION: What led to the decision to eject Marcus Smart from tonight’s game?
CREW CHIEF SEAN WRIGHT: “The contact by Smart to [Jusuf] Nurkic’s groin was deemed to be unsportsmanlike therefore he was ejected.”
So, that's that. It was considered unsportsmanlike. However, many are still confused as to what the low blow, which was not a basketball play, was not a Flagrant 2 and was instead deemed a technical. Did Smart say something to receive the technical and the ejection was unrelated to the foul? The overall explanation was lacking. And it wasn't the only controversial player the refs were asked about.
With seven minutes left in the game and the Celtics trailing by one, Tristan Thompson had what appeared to be a clean putback dunk to give Boston the lead. However, the refs called goaltending and waved the basket off. The replay clearly showed that the putback was clean, but the refs didn't call it that way, nor did they allow head coach Brad Stevens to review it.
QUESTION: Why was a goaltending called on Tristan Thompson with 7:27 to go in the fourth quarter?
WRIGHT: “During live play the ball was touched by Thompson and it was deemed to be in the cylinder at that time.”
QUESTION: Is that play reviewable?
WRIGHT: “As per rule, the play occurred above two minutes in the fourth quarter, the play is reviewable if Boston utilizes a coach’s challenge.”
QUESTION: Coach Stevens indicated in the post-game that he was told by the officials that he did not challenge the play in time. Were they not able to challenge it?
WRIGHT: “As mentioned, it is reviewable if Boston uses their coach’s challenge. The challenging team must call a legal timeout and signal for a coach’s challenge. When Coach Stevens calls a timeout, the ball was already put in play with Portland having possession therefore we could not grant Boston a timeout.”
In this instance, CJ McCollum was smart enough to get the ball from one of the refs inbound before Stevens knew what happened. It's similar to an NFL team snapping the ball before a review is triggered. It was a savvy play by McCollum, but doesn't negate the fact that the call on the floor was incorrect.
The Blazers picked up the win, and as they say, "a win is a win," but this one certainly wasn't without a couple of head scratchers.