Lost amidst the craziness that was the 3OT Game Four, there was a crucial play in the first OT that had the potential to swing the outcome. During OT1 and the Thunder clinging to a six point lead, Grizzlies guard O.J. Mayo lined up for a 3-pointer. James Harden closed on him and made a great block, and Harden's momentum carried him out of bounds. Mayo jumped, caught the ball, and spiked it off of the out-of-bounds Harden's head in order to preserve possession.
The referees originally awarded the ball to the Thunder, but after replay review, they reversed the call and gave it back to the Grizzlies. Memphis capitalized on the reversal and hit a 3-pointer, which further contributed to the OT dramatics.
What had bugged me to no end though was that, if you watch the replay, it is plain and obvious that, when Mayo leapt to grab the ball, his right foot is clearly on the sideline, which should have rendered him ineligible to touch the still-in-play ball. It seemed to me that, by Mayo touching the ball before reestablishing himself as part of the court, it should have been an out-of-bounds violation against the Grizzlies and the Thunder should have been awarded with possession.
The broadcast team ran the play numerous times while the refs deliberated, and from every angle it appeared conclusively that Mayo's foot was out of bounds. Surprisingly, both of the broadcast guys completely ignored what seemed to me to be a crucial element of the call.
Darnell Mayberry at the Oklahoman also wondered why this call was ruled the way it was, and so asked the league office for clarification. You can find the explanation in full here:
A full sized image of the play can be seen after the jump.
To quote Mayberry:
"According to NBA replay rule, NBA officials are not allowed to examine and rule on boundary infractions in addition to deciding who touched the ball last and determining possession."
Mayberry also quotes Senior Vice President, Basketball Communications, Tim Frank:
"When a referee is reviewing a question on who the ball went out of bounds on, the referee is only permitted to check who hit the ball last, not boundary infractions"
Let's go to the rule book:
(Big props to whomever thought it would be a nice effect to use Comic Sans font for a rule book)
Rule 8 says:
Item: Out of bounds plays in two minutes of game and of all subsequent overtime periods.
Trigger: Officials are uncertain as to who touched the ball last or if the ball was last touched simultaneously by two opponents when the ball goes out-of-bounds.
Reviewable Matters: 1. Identify who touched the ball last; 2. Adjust game clock as necessary.
- Video review will take place ONLY in the last two minutes of the fourth period and all overtime periods
- Review must take place prior to the subsequent in-bounding of the ball
- Officials must first make a call on the floor (favoring one team or jump ball) and then review video