The Orlando Magic lost a heartbreaker Thursday against the defending Eastern champion Cleveland Cavaliers, 104-103, a defeat made the more upsetting due to an iffy call against Orlando guard Shelvin Mack with 11 seconds to play.
As Cavs point guard Isaiah Thomas drove to the hoop with less than 15 seconds to play and his team trailing by a point, Mack appeared to tie him up to force a jump ball. Instead, Mack was whistled for a foul. Thomas drained the ensuing foul shots to provide the game’s final margin, as Elfrid Payton’s acrobatic layup attempt in traffic just before the final buzzer clanked off the back iron.
In its review of the final two minutes of game action, posted publicly on NBA.com, the league concluded Mack’s attempted tie-up “affects [Thomas’] SQBR,” which stands for “speed, quickness, balance, rhythm.” The report says Mack made contact with Thomas’ arm before the ball, and thus deems the call correct.
But lest anyone get hung up on the call, or blame officiating for the loss, it’s instructive to note Orlando trailed by as much as 23 points in this game. It would have positioned itself more strongly for victory had it not played so flat in the first half, yielding 67 points and trailing by 20 at intermission.
The Magic’s road trip continues Sunday against the Boston Celtics.