Fans of both the Orlando Magic and the Lakers found reasons to complain about officiating after the Lakers' 101-96 overtime victory in Game 2 of the NBA Finals on Sunday night.
The subject: goaltending.
Most of the attention focused on what happened during the final tenths of a second in regulation -- when the Lakers' Pau Gasol wasn't called for goaltending as he touched the rim while Magic guard Courtney Lee attempted a game-winning layup. Still, it appears that Lakers fans' gripes over a non-goaltending call on Dwight Howard early in the game have more merit.
The more controversial of the two non-calls came as time expired in the fourth quarter with the score tied, 88-88. Lee caught an alley-oop inbounds pass from Hedo Turkoglu and put up a layup that would have won the game for the Magic.
Just as Lee's attempt bounced off the backboard, Gasol's right hand touched the underside of the rim. The ball then hit the outside edge of the rim and sailed away from the basket as the final horn of regulation sounded. The game would go into overtime, and the Lakers went on to win and take a 2-0 lead in the series.
In the first quarter, Howard reached through the hoop to block away a Gasol shot -- a clear violation of the rule book's Rule No. 11, Section 1, Article G, which states that goaltending occurs when a player "touch[es] the ball at any time with a hand which is through the basket ring."
The referees didn't call goaltending on Howard, which saved two points for the Magic.
The non-call on Howard appears to be little more than a mistake by the referees. But why didn't they call goaltending on Gasol and award the Magic two points?
For the answer, turn to Page 39 of the 2008-09 Official Rules of the National Basketball Association. Rule No. 11, Section I, Article H states that a player will not "vibrate the rim, net or backboard so as to cause the ball to make an unnatural bounce, or bend or move the rim to an off-center position when the ball is touching the ring or passing through."
By not calling goaltending, referees determined that Gasol's action didn't vibrate the goal to such a degree that it caused "an unnatural bounce."
"If you're interpreting from the rule book, I would not have called that a goaltend last night because the contact with the rim was pretty mild," ESPN NBA analyst Tim Legler said in a phone interview Monday.
"I think that the ball wasn't going in anyway. That ball was coming off the rim too hard. I don't care how much Pau Gasol touched the rim; that ball was not going in the basket. There was too much English on the basketball when it skipped off the glass."
Bernie Fryer, NBA director of officials, told the Los Angeles Times that no call was the correct call, because Gasol didn't alter the flight of the ball.
The non-calls set off a small debate in cyberspace. A blog post on orlandosentinel.com about the Lee-Gasol play generated 115 comments from readers in the first 15 hours. One reader wrote: "The ball did hit the rim. Any time it hits the rim it has a chance to bounce high and possibly go in. If the rim is vibrated at all it does [affect] the ball's rotation. The refs didn't want to see it. Overtime is safer."
Still, other fans noted that the Magic was fortunate that goaltending wasn't called on Howard earlier in the game.
"Dwight Howard stuck his whole arm through the hoop in the first quarter to block a shot," another fan wrote. "Take your whining and crying somewhere else."