In my initial Wizards-Pacers game post, I was completely remiss in not mentioning the foul with 0.5 seconds which gave Mike Dunleavy the game winning free-throws.
In his post-game interview, Brendan Haywood cited the defense allowing Earl Watson and Tyler Hansbrough to do whatever they wanted in preceding key possessions as one of the main causes of defeat (along with a horrendous second quarter), but I got the feeling that most everyone on the team felt they got cheated out of a win because an unjust foul was called.
Is that so?
“The call … I looked at it ten times, that call at the end. They called the foul on Brendan Haywood. If the foul was called on Brendan Haywood, the game was over … so that was a bad call.” -Flip Saunders
“Uh … yea … the score says they won, but you know …” -Antawn Jamison
“Uhh …. I didn’t think I fouled him. I’m not sure, I haven’t seen the replay. So I didn’t think I fouled him. So I definitely felt that time had run off.” -Brendan Haywood
Let’s take a look at how the Wizards’ defensive plan worked with 0.5 seconds on the clock and the Pacers looking for the go ahead basket.
Here, guys are getting their positions and match-ups set after the timeout. Andray Blatche is trying his shoe near Flip Saunders, a distraught Gilbert Arenas is milling around near the bench, DeShawn Stevenson is going to guard the out of bounds passer, Earl Watson, and Dominic McGuire is heading toward T.J. Ford in the corner.
Okay, so Blatche is finally ready. As Jamison goes near Troy Murphy at the three-point line and Brendan Haywood near Tyler Hansbrough at the elbow, Andray taps his chest and tells Stevenson that he has to out of bounds passer instead. DeShawn is confused, evident by his extended arms miming, ‘Question mark?’
Now DeShawn thinks he’s out of the game and begins to take the baseline route toward the bench. Flip Saunders and Randy Wittman begin to adamantly point from the sideline that Stevenson is to guard the man right under the basket, the 6’9″ Mike Dunleavy.
Stevenson stops, turns a 180, and throws out those extended question mark arms again as if to say, ‘Wait, I’m actually in the game?’
At this point you have everyone from Saunders to Wittman to Cassell to Haywood to Caron Butler pointing Stevenson toward Dunleavy, who is just hanging out, biding his time. Even the ref blows his whistle so the Wizards can get everything sorted out.
DeShawn gets back to the court, but he’s still confused.
“You want ME, the shortest guy the Wizards have on the court at 6’5″ to guard the guy under the rim, who happens to be four inches taller?” Evidently so DeShawn, evidently so.
Saunders is all but dancing out on the court trying to direct DeShawn, even Caron looks to be yelling directional profanities at his teammate from the bench. Haywood patronizes the situation by saddling up next to Dunleavy as if to say, “Hey, I could guard the guy if you want … we are closer in height.”
Finally, Stevenson goes to cover Dunleavy, still looking confused/reluctant. Everyone else lines up in their predetermined positions by Flip Saunders and the coaching staff.
Ok, everybody set?
Whew … that was difficult.
Ok Wizards gang, let’s play defense for 0.5 seconds.
They lobbed the ball to the 6’9″ guy covered by the 6’5″ guy under the basket.
Who drew up these defensive assignments anyway?
Here’s where the controversy comes in. The pictures above and below seems to depict the exact moment that Mike Dunleavy catches the ball, when the 0.5 seconds left on the clock is supposed to start counting down. It’s relatively clear in both pictures that Brendan Haywood has a hand into Dunleavy’s back … now whether this warrants a foul call, I really can’t say.
It’s also hard to tell, even looking at the live motion replays, if a foul should be called on DeShawn Stevenson. I’d lean toward no … and a foul wasn’t called on him, so it doesn’t really matter.
And here’s the Haywood arm swing that the refs probably called a foul on. He seems to think it was impossible for him to wind up and connect in the span of 0.5 seconds to 0.1 seconds. Again, hard to say. It’s also hard to say if he’s even making contact with Dunleavy here.
So let’s look at another angle. Notice here that time is still on the clock because the lights on the backboard, shot clock, and scorer’s table have not come on. Is Haywood touching all ball with his hand? Is his arm connecting with Dunleavy’s head? These are difficult choices that could have gone either way … but time is still on the clock.
So, I guess to conclude … the Wizards can argue all they want over the validity of the call. If there was a foul … if there was enough time for a foul … whatever.
But from my end, I must wonder why wasn’t the 6’9″ Dominic McGuire guarding the 6’9″ Mike Dunleavy under the basket while the 6’5″ DeShawn Stevenson, perhaps, guarded the 6’0″ T.J. Ford in the corner.
You wonder why Stevenson was so adamantly baffled during the execution of coverage, now we know why. He knew that particular mismatch stuck out like a sore thumb. The Pacers also knew … and they took advantage.