NBA League Office Announces Incorrect Ruling Was Made on Final Play

Josh Cohen
Digital News Manager

SACRAMENTO – After further review, the Orlando Magic were incorrectly denied a final chance at getting off a potential game-winning shot by referees in the final second of a 108-107 loss at Staples Center, the NBA announced on Thursday.

And, after even more review a day later, the Magic were left with no recourse and still saddled with a frustration-filled defeat at the hands of the Los Angeles Lakers.

With the Magic down one and just six-tenths of a second left on the clock, they attempted a lob pass at the rim only to have the clock expire and the horn sound in the middle of it. Referees, after conferring with the league’s replay center, ultimately ruled that neither team had possession and there should be a jump ball at center court with 0.6 left on the clock.

The NBA’s league office released its ``Last Two Minute Report’’ on Thursday and it stated that there were two errors made in the final second of Orlando’s one-point loss to the Lakers. The report not only stated that the clock was started prematurely by the refereeing crew of Bill Spooner, Courtney Kirkland and Derek Richardson, but also that there was an incorrect ruling applied to the play because neither team had touched the ball when the game clock expired.

``I was a little surprised (at the admission of an error), to be honest, because usually if it goes through New Jersey (the NBA’s replay center), it’s by the letter of the law and that’s what we were told (Wednesday) night,’’ said Magic coach Frank Vogel, referring to the league’s admission that mistakes were made. ``I’m not sure why (the rule) was reversed and it’s really a non-factor for us now. The game’s in the past and there’s nothing we can do about it. I just hope they look at it and it doesn’t impact any teams in the future.’’

Vogel said the Magic would not protest the ruling and would not push to have the final 0.6 of the game replayed at a later date.

The controversial finish marred an otherwise thrilling game. The Magic erased a 12-point deficit in the final five minutes and led by one with five ticks remaining following an Aaron Gordon layup. Brook Lopez put the Lakers back ahead with two free throws, but the Magic weren’t given the chance to respond because of the errors made with the clock and the ruling.

Gordon thought the Magic would simply get the ball back and the clock would be restarted, but such a chance never came.

``That seems logical, right? That seemed like would be the right way to go and it didn’t make sense to me that we were jumping it up, but it’s over with now and we’re onto Sacramento,’’ Gordon said, referring to Friday’s game against the Kings. ``You’ve just got to move onto the next game. There are plenty of times we could have won that game. Personally, I could have shot better from the (free throw) stripe. Defensively, we could have done better to give ourselves enough cushion so that things like that doesn’t affect the game down the stretch.’’

With the Magic in possession of the ball and down one point, Mario Hezonja lofted a pass toward the rim that was intended for Gordon. However, the clock expired as the ball was in the air and Gordon slowed his jump. Referees stopped play, went to the replay monitor and ruled that there should be a jump ball at center court with 0.6 remaining. Had they made the correct call, the Magic would have retained possession and had another shot at winning or tying the game, the NBA said on Thursday.

The NBA’s ``Last Two Minute Report’’ stated: ``On the inbound pass, referees were reasonably certain that there was a clock malfunction and triggered an Instant Replay under Rule 13.1.a.5. After review, it is confirmed that the game clock was inadvertently started by the referee crew and that time expired before the ball was touched. The clock is correctly reset to 0:00.6. However, since the pass was still in the air when the clock expired, the ball was still in ORL’s possession and thus ORL should have retained possession on the sideline at the nearest spot. Had the ball been touched by LAL prior to the expiration of the clock, it would have been considered a loose ball and the jump ball ruling would have been correct.’’

The admission of errors proved to be little solace for the Magic on Thursday. Vogel, however, looked for the bright side and commended the NBA for admitting that mistakes were made in an effort to be transparent to their teams and fans.

``You see a lot of people criticizing (the Last Two Minute Report) and wish that they didn’t do it, but I like that the league tries to do the right thing,’’ Vogel said. ``I credit them for doing (admitting the error). In the end result, they get it right most times. The spend an exorbitant amount of resources on officiating crews and obviously the replay center and they’re trying to let the game be decided on the floor more than any other league in pro sports. So, I commend them for that.’’

The result handed the Magic (20-45) their second straight loss as they head into Friday’s game in Sacramento against the Kings (20-45). Orlando will head into that game not only with a losing streak, but shorthanded because of a rash of injuries.

Standout guard Evan Fournier sprained the MCL in his left knee in the third quarter of the loss to the Lakers and won’t play on Friday night against the Kings. A MRI on Thursday showed no structural tears, but Fournier will likely be out for at least the next two games. (Orlando plays the Clippers in Los Angeles on Saturday).

``I was pretty confident and as an athlete you know your body,’’ said Fournier, stating that he knew all along that his knee wasn’t seriously damaged. ``I had two doctors that told me the same thing – that is was not too bad, but serious enough to leave the court for a little bit. But I’ll be all right.’’

Also, starting point guard D.J. Augustin sprained his ankle near the end of Wednesday’s loss and is listed as questionable to play on Friday. If he can’t go, that leaves Shelvin Mack as the only true point guard on the team. Jonathon Simmons can also play the position, while Vogel has entertained the notion of experimenting with forward Wes Iwundu at point guard in a relief role.

The Magic signed guard Rodney Purvis to a 10-day contract on Thursday. Purvis played previously for Orlando’s G League affiliate, the Lakeland Magic, and ranked eighth in the league in scoring (20.5 ppg.) in 37 games. Purvis, who recently turned 24, vowed to be ready to play on Friday if called upon.

``This is something I’ve been dreaming about my entire life and I couldn’t give more thanks to God,’’ Purvis said. ``The Orlando Magic’s entire organization, for them bringing me in, I’m just really appreciative. I appreciate this (10-day contract) so much.’’

Wednesday’s defeat put something of a damper on the stellar performances by forward Gordon and Nikola Vucevic. Gordon scored 28 points, including the gritty, end-to-end layup that put Orlando ahead 107-106 with just five seconds remaining.
Vucevic had a dazzling all-around game, giving the Magic 24 points, 12 rebounds, six assists and two blocked shots. However, he was whistled for a foul with six-tenths of a second remaining, sending Lopez to the free throw line. The 7-footer calmly sank both free throws to put the Lakers into the lead and set the stage for the calamitous ending.

``I was going to go up to get the ball and I saw the red light come on (around the backboard) and I was just a little confused,’’ Gordon said of the final lob play that was interrupted. ``I thought we were just going to get the ball and take it out on the side – that made the most sense. But they jumped it up in the middle and it was game over.’’

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