The Magic felt cheated after Wednesday’s 108-107 loss to the Lakers. And on Thursday, the NBA essentially confirmed that they were.
With 0.6 seconds remaining and the Magic trailing by one, Mario Hezonja lobbed an in-bounds pass towards Aaron Gordon. The clock began while the ball was in the air and time expired by the time the ball was touched. Following a replay review, the referees called for a jump ball at center court, denying the Magic an opportunity for a last-second shot to win the game.
After the game, NBA Crew Chief, Bill Spooner, told pool reporter, Bill Oram of the Orange County Register, that the review determined “that the ball was in midair when the clock malfunctioned and therefore, the ruling is, because there’s no possession when the clock goes off, the ruling is that there’s no possession and we go center circle, jump ball.”
Ummmm....Not quite, Bill.
After the league’s review of the bizarre ending, the NBA said in its Last-Two-Minute report that the referees inadvertently started the game clock to early and that the ensuing ruling to have a jump ball at center court was incorrect.
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.
Frank Vogel told Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel that the Magic will not protest the game.
“The game’s in the past,” Vogel said. “It’s over. What are they going to do? Replay 0.6 seconds and fly us out to L.A.? I have not even discussed it, to be honest with you, with [Magic President of Basketball Operations] Jeff Weltman.
“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 hope they look at it, and it doesn’t impact any teams in the future. Whether they’ve got to tweak the rule or whatever, I think it should be done pretty immediately.”
Even for a team that should be tanking, it was an infuriating outcome, particularly after the Magic fought back from a 12-point deficit to take the lead in the closing seconds.
That being said, the Magic made mistakes of their own in the game that cost them the win more than some admittedly bad calls by the refs did.