The NBA routinely fines players and coaches for criticizing the officiating, but Brook Lopez may have a legitimate bone to pick with Saturday night’s team.
Referees incorrectly called two crucial plays that went against the Brooklyn Nets in their 90-88 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers Saturday night, the NBA noted in their nightly referee report. Both calls benefited LeBron James over Brook Lopez, shortly before James hit a running game-winner over the seven-footer.
On the first call, Lopez was called for an offensive foul while getting hooked by James. James also insisted during the play that there was a foul on Lopez.
According to the report, there should have been a “double foul,” with the Nets retaining possession, given how the referees are trained to make that call:
LHH and LATR show James (CLE) applies a forearm with a bent elbow to Lopez (BKN) in the lower defensive box, which is legal. James then hooks Lopez’s arm from underneath and Lopez reacts by clamping James’ arm with his left off arm / hand and a double foul should be called. However, the slot sees only Lopez’s action and calls an offensive foul The lead referee has a dual whistle at this point, seeing the two players arms wrapped up. On plays in the paint, all three referees have responsibility to help with contact, and when two or three referees make a call, they are trained to make eye contact and the official who takes control of the play tweets multiple whistles to indicate he has the play. In this case, the referee who thought he had the best look was incorrect based on the angles available. We should have a double foul with BKN retaining possession.
The second call, which occurred with about 55 seconds left, was a bit more obvious. With the Nets down one, James clearly brings his arm down on Lopez’s arm, knocking the ball loose from his hands and securing a steal. You can also see referee Scott Foster standing next to the play, with James’s contact in full plain view.
Both calls had a significant impact on the game. The first negated a made shot by Lopez that would have given the Nets a one-point lead. The correct call would have also negated the shot, but the Nets would have retained possession. The second took the ball out of Lopez’s hands and gave the Cavaliers more time to set up, which took a full 24 seconds off the clock.
To be fair, neither call resulted in an immediate basket on the other side, and the official report also notes a missed three-second call that benefited Lopez. And of course, LeBron James’s final game-winning shot was as clean as they get, perhaps better than any look the Nets got down the stretch. But two calls going in favor of James and the Cavaliers in a late-game situation on the road doesn’t help their cause.