[Flip Saunders at the moment of outrage over a questionable call.]
In some regard a basketball game can come down to a single play or a single call, in most it doesn’t.
A small fraction of the narrative for the Wizards’ 93-85 loss to the Charlotte Bobcats came with less than two minutes left in the game. Yi Jianlian, who had played measured, focused defense all night long — to the tune of six blocks in 32 minutes off the bench (although, only one defensive rebound in that time, more on that issue later) — saw Crash Gerald Wallace approaching the lane that he occupied. Yi planted his feet, outside of the restricted area, and absorbed the contact. One ref seemed to want to whistle a charge, another a blocking foul; the triumvirate conferred on the call.
NBA referee Rodney Mott emerged from the huddled discussion, looked in the direction of the scorer’s table/Wizards bench, gave a prolonged wry smile, hesitated, and then signaled Yi for a blocking violation. Not exactly the tact you’d like to see from a referee making a crucial call — almost making a mockery of a scene and a seemingly wrong call that the Wizards’ bench didn’t find too comical.
“Yea, it was a terrible call,” said Flip Saunders after the game. “Instead of it going the other way, now it ends up being an eight point game. There’s a difference when it’s two minutes to go and and it’s six.”
Let’s hear what Yi had to say.
The difference, as Saunders mentioned, is that even though Wallace missed the resulting And-1 free-throw, he got his own offensive rebound, which served as a macrocosm of the game (Wallace gave his team six offensive boards on the night), and took precious seconds off the clock. The Wizards were able to turn the Bobcats over, and John Wall hit a bucket to keep them within 91-85 at the 1:30 mark. But Gilbert Arenas’ continued misses kept the Wizards from staging a comeback.
In the end, it’s frivolous to think that games really come down to one play, although pointing out specific ones of impact, like a seemingly blown call, does make for a good story.
But no, it was defense and rebounding which was responsible for the loss, mostly rebounding as the Bobcats burned the Wizards with a 48-30 advantage on the glass. Yi and JaVale McGee combined for six total rebounds in 53 minutes of court action.
“When those guys are playing those spots, they got to get more,” said Saunders. “It just puts too much pressure on the rest of our team.”
More on the rebounding situation to come.