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Wild Finish Between Wizards, Clippers Marred by Controversy

The Washington Wizards should have beaten the injury-depleted Los Angeles Clippers in Saturday’s matinee. Unfortunately, they did not. A wild finish in the game’s waning moments ultimately led to their demise. The Wizards (14-12) played their part, blowing a game in which they led by four points with 50 seconds remaining and had the ball for two free throws. However, the NBA and its officiating played significant of role as well.

First let’s examine the process. After Tomas Satoransky’s two missed free throws, the Clippers (9-15) eventually had an opportunity to tie or take the lead. A missed jumper by Austin Rivers led to the officials first gaffe. DeAndre Jordan officially gets the offensive rebound over Marcin Gortat. He then finds Rivers who rolls from the corner to the wing for a clutch three that puts Clippers up by one with 12 seconds remaining.

On second look, the referees missed the fact Jordan gave a shove to Gortat. On such a critical situation, one would think the officials’ eyes would catch it especially with one of them standing right in the line of the play. Wizards head coach Scott Brooks appeared baffled by the missed call following the loss.

Before they come up with a lame excuse to why it was not called, or the league’s Last 2 Minute’s report says a foul should have occurred, remember Gortat and the officials had a strange night.

Gortat was called for a foul on the opening jump ball to start the game. Just seconds later on the Wizards first possession, Gortat was later nailed by an inadvertent elbow from Danilo Gallinari, while taking a jumper. He fell to the floor, yet no foul was called. During the first timeout, Gortat had words with the officials for their missed call, and had to be restrained by teammates…

Now let’s fast forward to the biggest fumble of the night by the referees. After Rivers’ three, Bradley Beal put the Wizards right back on top with a three-point play, as he slipped a screen and got fouled while making a layup. His free throw put the Wizards up 112-110 with eight seconds remaining.

Lou Williams responded for the Clippers and he drained a three pointer from about 29 feet out over Beal with 1.2 seconds remaining. He got enough separation with a crossover dribble. Los Angeles led 113-112.

After a timeout, Washington advanced the ball to the half court line. Beal got the pass in the corner and took a dribble along the baseline before dropping a floater. The shot was initially waved off, as time expired. But on second look, it was clear the clock was started before Beal ever touched the ball. A review would show the well-timed error by the clock operator at the Staples Center.

Unfortunately, there is no way to determine (or at least not in the rule book) if Beal got the shot off in time despite the clock being started too early. So, the next logical step is replay the play. Like as in the NFL when they have offsetting penalties, right? Put the ball back in the same spot the play started with the same amount of time.

However, that’s not what was ruled by the referees on the floor. They ruled to replay the play, except they put 1.1 seconds on the clock, 1/10-tenth of second less. Then they had the Wizards inbound on a side out not at half court as the initial possession started. The ruling forced Satoransky to inbound with nowhere to go but his right side, eliminating the spacing on the floor Washington originally had that led to Beal’s baseline drive that didn’t count.

Of course, as one would expect, neither Beal nor Otto Porter were able to free themselves, leaving Satoransky to throw in to Gortat, who in turn shot an off-balanced prayer that fell hopelessly short as time expired.

One can question if Beal would have made the shot in time if the clock didn’t start too early. You can point to the Wizards missing eight free throws – Satoransky’s two being the more prominent, or Williams’ beautiful clutch three over Beal. Yet, there is no doubt the referees did all it could to leave doubt with a blown no-call on Jordan’s offensive rebound and the bogus ruling behind the clock malfunction.

The Wizards will have to wait for whatever explanations the league office gives. It’s certain to bring no clarity to the situation or erase the loss. In an Eastern Conference that is tight throughout the standings, the season or postseason seeding can come down to one or two plays or even one or two blown opportunities by referees.

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