Reported Controversy: Early Season Wizards No Strangers to Close Calls | Wizards Blog Truth About

Reported Controversy: Early Season Wizards No Strangers to Close Calls

Updated: November 2, 2015


The young Wizards season has brought a close game in each contest, and controversy worth talking about. There was the one-point season opening win versus the Magic, a five-point win over the Bucks in the second game, and a seven-point loss to the Knicks—the latter was much closer than even the final margin indicates.

Since the start of last season, NBA officials release a “Last Two Minute” Report (LTM), providing the league-watching public with insight as to what went right, or wrong, upon further review in close games. Not that this provides solace or any change in the outcome.

The report’s header states that its an “…assessment of officiated events that occurred in the last two minutes of last night’s games which were within five points at the two-minute mark (and during overtime, where applicable). The plays assessed include all calls (whistles) and notable non-calls. Notable non-calls will generally be defined as material plays directly related to the outcome of a possession.”

And now you know.

Versus Orlando, the refs whistled Marcin Gortat for defensive goaltending with three seconds left and the Wizards up 88-87. But upon review from the replay center during a stoppage in play, it was determined that Gortat’s backboard slap was legal (it didn’t, according to judgement, cause an “unusual bounce” of the ball). The play, however, was not whistled dead until the ball rolled across the back of the rim for an excruciatingly long amount of time, after which it was touched by Nikola Vucevic and then Bradley Beal while still technically resting on iron. The replay center determined that the ball was not in the cylinder when touched by either player. Since Gortat’s goaltending was also rescinded (a special transcript was released to explain this), and since the rebound from Tobias Harris’ missed layup attempt ended up in Victor Oladipo’s hands (as the whistle blew), Orlando was given the ball and a second chance to win the game.

Everything worked out for the Wizards on the do-over, however. Orlando missed again, this time a hotly contested Vucevic jumper by Gortat, and the Wizards escaped Florida with win No. 1. Had Vucevic hit that shot, however, controversy would have boiled over. Upon initial glance, the LTM from that game indicates that there were zero “incorrect calls” (IC) or “incorrect non-calls” (INC … It’s the ride, y’all, c’mon we’re goin’ on a ride).

BUT… (but), without designation in the Review Decision column, the LTM says, “[Observable in enhanced video] Vucevic (ORL) splits his feet on the perimeter.” That is to say, Vucevic traveled before releasing the potential game winner. But if they didn’t call it on the court, it wouldn’t have been reviewable during the game. Luckily for the Wizards, the ball told no lies.

Game No. 2, as close as the first, was not included in the NBA’s Last Two Minute Report since it did not technically qualify. Beal hit a 3-pointer with exactly two minutes left to put Washington up seven points, 111-104, and eight seconds after a Bucks timeout, a Michael Carter-Williams jumper cut the Wizards’ margin back to five, 111-106. Gary Neal made two free throws with 10 seconds left to put the Wizards up 118-113 (the final margin) and ice the game. Interesting how a game which comes down to the wire for all intents and purposes is not further scrutinized, per a technicality.

So there the Wizards were on Halloween night, popping back up in the LTM Report for their affair against the New York Knicks. No IC’s were assessed, but two INC’s were.

With 1:15 left and the Knicks up 108-106, Robin Lopez should have been whistled for a traveling violation. With Nene closely guarding him near the 3-point line as he looked to pass, Lopez “moved his pivot foot heel to toe,” per the LTM. Instead, Jared Dudley, still defending after the missed call, committed a foul after the pass (the Wizards had a foul to give), the Knicks ended up calling a timeout, and Langston Galloway subsequently hit a tough 3-pointer to put New York up 111-106.

With 25 seconds left and the Wizards hanging on for dear life, Nene should have been whistled for an offensive foul for “tangling,” i.e., holding Lopez while Otto Porter streaked down the lane for a dunk to keep the Wizards within one point, 111-110. Nene did do some holding upon this writer’s further review, but that’s one of those things, akin to watching an offensive line in the NFL—holding could be called much more often, if not always. Ever notice how the defensive player closest to the basket on free throw attempts often doesn’t “block out” per se, but instead faces the offensive player and extends a tangle of limbs to curtail any offensive rebound attempt? Happens all the time.

Then the controversial play that gave John Wall fits, to the point where he should have drawn a technical foul, happened. After that Porter dunk the Wizards pressured the ball. Galloway went toward Lance Thomas, the inbounder, to receive the pass but in the process lost his balance (maybe he was inadvertently tripped—no comment). Simultaneous to Galloway not having possession/receiving the ball, John Wall knocked the ball off his leg and it bounced around beyond anyone’s immediate control near the baseline. Before anyone knew what was going on (or had the ball), the Knicks were awarded a timeout.

Let’s watch in full speed…

A couple things are unclear:

  • Does Galloway’s hand touch the baseline out of bounds while he has the ball? Too close to call, even on replay.
  • Does Galloway’s foot touch out of bounds while he has possession of the ball? This is very, very close, and if the referees are awarding a timeout, it seems like the a foot in illegal territory should be a factor.

Let’s watch…

What did John Wall think after the game?

“It was terrible. I smacked it off his leg and then his hand was out of bounds and he was trying to grab the ball. Then the ball was on his back, he didn’t have it on his arm, and he just went on ahead and called timeout.”

One critical point: Whomever is “possessing” the ball, in this case Galloway, does not have to be the person requesting the timeout. It could also come from the head coach or a teammate on the court. From the video, you could certainly see Carmelo Anthony asking for a timeout, but the LTM from Saturday determined that, “Galloway (NYK) requests timeout before his foot goes out of bounds.”

So, somehow, after a gather-dribble while on the floor and as he scrambled the cradle the ball with one arm as Porter and Wall encroached, Galloway was able to maintain control of the ball long enough to call a timeout before his foot went out of bounds. It seems far-fetched, and Randy Wittman expressed that he was not a fan with #WittmanFace galore.

As the part of the final layer of not-at-all-sweet icing,
Beal after the game claimed that he got “hit” on a layup attempt with 14 seconds left that would have kept Washington within a point at 112-113. But the replay center did not agree, stating, “On drive, Thomas (NYK) makes no contact with Beal as he attempts his layup. LATR (across court) Lopez (NYK) remains vertical, turning slightly, absorbing contact and getting ball. Incidental contact occurs as Beal comes to his space.”

Tough break, kiddo. (And Beal won’t be getting a contract extension by Monday’s deadline.)

These are the breaks. Data from player tracking cameras and equipment, perhaps, is not yet sophisticated enough to help curtail human error. In tennis, computers detect whether a ball has landed out of play; perhaps the same will one day be done for fingers and toes that might touch out-of-bounds territory in the NBA.

It’s a fast-paced game and we must live with the imperfections that result while appreciating the progress that’s been made in technology, and transparency. Could the NBA be more transparent? Could the refs to a better job? Yes, and yes.

Let this be a lesson for the young Wizards, who could find themselves in numerous close contests for the rest of this season (habitually, if unfortunate) and into the playoffs. The best response they could ever have is to more greatly value each possession so as to lessen the influence of calls in a close game. Or, if Wittman has his way, they’ll just make more of a commitment to the defensive end, dammit, and the cards will fall in their favor.


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Kyle Weidie
Founder / Editor / Reporter / Writer at TAI
Kyle founded TAI in 2007 and has been weaving in and out the world of Wizards ever since, ducking WittmanFaces, jumping over G-Wiz, and avoiding stints on the DNP-Conditioning list. He has covered the Washington pro basketball team as a member of the media since 2009. Kyle currently lives in Brooklyn, NY with his wife, loves basketball, and has no pets.