NBA Admits Critical Blown Goaltending Call in Warriors-Mavericks Game

Joe FlynnContributor IApril 2, 2014

Dallas Mavericks guard Monta Ellis (11) shoots over Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson in the second half of an NBA basketball game, Tuesday, April 1, 2014, in Dallas. Golden State won 122-120 in overtime. (AP Photo/Matt Strasen)
Matt Strasen

For the second time in the 2013-14 season, the Dallas Mavericks fell victim to a clutch jumper from the hands of Stephen Curry. The Golden State Warriors sniper sunk the game-winner with just 0.1 left on the clock, sealing the 122-120 overtime victory and plunging a potentially fatal dagger into the Mavs' playoff hopes.

But the play that really left Mavs fans seething happened seconds earlier, as the referees ruled a blocked shot on a potential go-ahead field-goal attempt by Mavericks guard Monta Ellis with 16.0 seconds left. Many observers believed that goaltending should have been called on Warriors center Jermaine O'Neal, which would have given Dallas a two-point lead.

Well the NBA concurred with that assessment. On Wednesday, the league released an official statement from president of basketball operations Rod Thorn, admitting that the refs missed the call: 

Upon review at the league office, we have found that a shot taken by Dallas' Monta Ellis with 16.0 seconds remaining in overtime was on the way down when initially contacted and ruled a block by Golden State's Jermaine O'Neal, and should have been ruled a goaltend. The exact trajectory of the ball when touched was impossible to ascertain with the naked eye, and the play was not reviewable.

A goaltending call is not reviewable under the league's replay policy, so there was no way to change the call once it was made.

The call had a massive impact on the Western Conference postseason race. Going into the game, Dallas was tied with the Phoenix Suns and Memphis Grizzlies for the final two playoff spots. The loss dropped them into the dreaded ninth spot with only seven games left to play. 

The public release of these official referee memos has been a recent development of the new Adam Silver administration. Unlike his predecessor, David Stern, Silver seems to be interested in making the league's dealing with their referees a more transparent process.

NBC Sports' Dan Feldman supports this new policy:

Fans who spend money, directly through ticket sales and merchandise and indirectly through advertising, on the NBA deserve to know what’s happening in the league.

Kudos to the Silver regime for going this direction. Referee memos can be a bit trite, but there’s no good reason not to disclose them.

Hopefully these memos will continue to be made public. The fans want accountability from the league and the refs, and this is a good start. But that will come as cold comfort for the Mavericks and their fans if Dallas misses the playoffs.