Phillips Arena timekeepers NBA official Eric Lewis: This is a situation that would make Vince McMahon proud. T.J. Ford seemingly hit a game-winning layup at the buzzer -- off an amazing halfcourt lob pass from Carlos Delfino, by the way -- but after a lengthy video review, the officials determined that Ford released the shot after the clock had expired. It was on to overtime, where the Hawks prevailed over the Raptors 127-120.
Just one problem. The arena's timekeepers Referee Eric Lewis shaved 0.1 off the clock, which deprived Ford of the split second he needed -- and deserved -- to complete the play. And here's the video evidence to prove that the ball hadn't even touched T.J.'s hands with 0.4 left on teh clock, anyway. (Evidence the officials also had access to, by the way.)
Toronto fans are pissed, and they have every right to be. Here's one angry e-mail I received from Basketbawful reader Raps Gurl, which pretty much sums up how they feel about this game in the frozen north: "I am FURIOUS over the blatant cheating that went on in the Raptors loss* to the Hawks this evening. Replays CLEARLY SHOW THAT THE CLOCK WAS STARTED EARLY ON THE LAST INBOUNDS PLAY! That extra 0.1 seconds lost would have made his basket count and the Raptors would have won the game. Instead, the biased scorekeepers once again reigned and like last year the game was unfairly decided. I hope game tape is sent in by the Raptors organization and this despicable cheating in an already tarnished league is dealt with. And no, this isn't just another Raptors fan crying foul, we legitimately got ROBBED."
Toronto Raptors: Yes, they got totally hosed by the time-shaving thing. However...the dinos were leading by 17 points in the third quarter before totally collapsing in the fourth, during which they hit only one shot in their last nine possessions. (Although technically they hit two shots in those nine possessions, since Ford's last-second basket should have counted. But I digress.) You've gotta close bad teams out, guys. You've gotta close out.
LeBron James, quote machine: You might want to sit down for this one. Okay. Ready? King James fouled out of a game. Yeah, I know! I guess the NBA has a secret rule that allows the refs to call fouls on him during one game every season, and last night was that game. Of course, The Chosen One was a little cranky afterwards (despite the fact that his teammates pulled out the win without him): "There were a few questionable [calls]. I know how to keep myself out of foul trouble for the most part. In my career I’ve done a great job of that." You know what his "stay out of foul trouble" secret is? Here's a hint: Being LeBron freaking James.
Sasha Pavlovic: Benched!
Daniel Gibson: Memo to Booby: Your role on this team? Shooter. And 1-for-7 (0-for-4 from beyond the arc) ain't gonna get it done. By the way, welcome back.
James Posey: He flushed in a lame "cotton candy" dunk during the first quarter that had his teammates booing him from the sideline. Weak. Hey James, I've got Bill Walton on the phone, and he wants me to tell you to THROW IT DOWN, BIG MAN!
Doc Rivers, time manager: Ray Allen is probably the most fragile of Boston's Big Three, Doc played him the most minutes by far (37). When asked why he wasn't playing Sam Cassell (who ended up with a DNP-CD), Rivers said, "I played him all night last night." Huh. I guess in Doc's world, "all night" means 14 minutes and 16 seconds out of a possible 48. Math: It makes my brain hurt.
(By the way, the bigger problem, and the reason Ray-Ray put in so many minutes, is that the Celtics kept letting the Pacers back into the game.)
The Pacers shooting: As the game dragged on, Hubie Brown kept commenting that the Pacers are one of the best three-point shooting teams in the league. But based on the way the game went -- Indiana shot 35 percent from the field and 6-for-29 from three-point range -- that's like trying to explain to your friends that you don't usually pass out and make a mess in your pants after a night of drinking. Good to know, but also kind of meaningless.
Washington Wizards: Not only did they choke up a nine-point lead in the closing minutes -- despite Agent Zero's emotional return -- they couldn't make a defensive stop with 1.1 seconds left on the clock. Oh, and the game-winner got knocked in by rookie and D-League escapee Ramon Sessions. Nobody should ever lose to a man named "Ramon" unless his first name is "Razor." And here's some extra bad news: DeShawn Stevenson rolled his ankle and Antawn Jamison hurt his shoulder diving into the crowd after a loose ball. I guess Washington signed some kind of agreement that at least two of their starting five will be out with injuries at all times.
Miami Heat Washington Generals: Good Lord, make their season stop already! (Thanks for the reminder, Carlo.)
New York Knicks: Well, now that Donnie Walsh is on board and Isiah is likely on his way out, the future is a little brighter in New York. But the present is as ugly as ever. The Knicks gave up 130 points on 60 percent shooting to...the Memphis Grizzlies. Eight [!!] Grizzlies scored in double figures, INCLUDING KWAME BROWN. I feel very unclean right now.
Golden State Warriors: Sure, they got blindsided by Dirk's unexpected return, but when you control your own postseason destiny and lose by 25 points to one of your primary competitors for one of the final two playoff spots, well, you have a pretty bleak destiny. (Did I just hear Don Nelson say "Beer me!"?)
Elton Brand: Welcome back, big guy. You were gone 74 games and yet didn't miss a beat. But...why'd you have to go and ruin your team's tanking plans? There's a lottery pick at stake, man! You're...you're not planning to opt out of your contract this summer, are you? Are you?!
Seattle To Be Named Laters: Let's see, after that 18-point home loss to the Clippers, Seattle has lost 19 of their last 21 games and would have to win their last seven -- against Houston (twice), Denver, Dallas (twice), San Antonio and Golden State -- to avoid the worst season in franchise history. So go grab a double-frapacheeny whatever the hell and some scones...it's going to be a painful last seven games.