It took several minutes of game action for officials to take a three-pointer off the board for the Miami Heat against the Boston Celtics in Sunday's Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. It was a decision that left Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra "in shock," as he explained to reporters after the game:
"The fact that it happened, three to four, five minutes in game time, that does change the context of how you're playing. We were starting to gain some momentum. You feel like it's a seven-, eight-point game and you look up and it's a 13-point game, and there's no other explanation for it other than it's gone back to the league offices. You feel like if it happens like that, it should happen immediately and you can adjust accordingly."
Miami guard Max Strus seemingly hit a three-pointer early in the third quarter to cut the team's deficit to 56-54. After about two minutes of game time, a replay review revealed Strus stepped out of bounds before the shot, negating the basket.
The points were taken off the board, and a 63-55 Celtics lead at the time became 63-52.
Spoelstra acknowledged that it wasn't the reason his team lost but said the league should consider a change in procedure going forward.
"I'm sure they will look at that, and we'll probably be the case study for it," he said.
Boston led by as many as 17 in the first half before the Heat cut the margin to six at halftime. The apparent three-pointer by Strus was the closest Miami got until late in the fourth quarter. An 11-0 run cut the deficit to two in the final minute of the game, but a Jimmy Butler three-point attempt for the lead didn't fall.
Miami could have obviously used three more points in the eventual 100-96 loss, but it was the timing of the ruling that especially turned heads.
"That was so unusual for us to be grinding and then start to get some momentum, and then it was like, oh, hey, by the way, take away that three, with no explanation," Spoelstra said.
It was enough to help the Celtics advance to the NBA Finals for a matchup against the Golden State Warriors.