The Bulls lost to the Nuggets 119-118 in overtime last night after a potentially game-winning Joakim Noah tip-in with 1.7 seconds left was ruled offensive goaltending.
The play: Marco Bellinelli attempted a shot from the short corner, Noah rumbled to the hoop and tipped in the shot before it hit the rim.
The ruling: The ball was above the rim and had a chance to go in, therefore it’s offensive goaltending.
Here’s the video:
Based on the letter of the law, it’s the correct call. But what is the difference between this play (where Noah grabs Bellinelli’s shot and scores) and all those sick lobs (where Blake Griffin grabs a Chris Paul pass above the rim and scores?
According to NBA referee Ken Mauer, there isn’t a difference. Here’s what he told NBA.com’s Steven Aschburner:
“There is no difference. If we deem the ball in its descent has a chance to score, and therefore it’s in the cylinder, it’s either offensive basket interference or it’s goaltending. That’s it.”
You can see how this is problematic.
Many of those lob alley-oop passes inadvertently have a chance to go in, but they are never called goaltending.
For instance, the first lob in this Clippers compilation would have probably hit the rim and had a chance to go in if DeAndre Jordan didn’t snatch it out of the air and dunk. Technically, this is goaltending:
The way Mauer explains it, the only thing that matters is whether the ball is on its way down and has a chance to go in. Therefore, regardless of whether or not it’s an intentional lob pass, it’s illegal for a player to dunk it.
Of course, referees never call basket interference on lobs. So even though they made the correct call on the Noah play, the Bulls have reason to gripe because that’s never, ever called.
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