The NBA has acknowledged the Minnesota Timberwolves were on the short end of an officiating error once again, and the latest one cost them dearly in a loss to the Dallas Mavericks.
Less than 24 hours after the Wolves lost at home to the Mavericks, 100-98, NBA president of basketball operations Rod Thorn announced Tuesday that Kevin Love was fouled on his right arm by Shawn Marion in the closing seconds and should have been awarded two free throws.
Officials Ed Malloy and David Guthrie were near the play, but neither blew their whistle. Marion was awarded a blocked shot on the play that allowed the Mavericks to hang on for an important road victory. Thorn said replays showed Marion did hit Love on his right arm while he raised up to shoot a jumper in the corner.
The acknowledgement held little weight with the Timberwolves, who are trying to chase down the Mavericks in the Western Conference playoff race.
"It’s like moral victories," Love said. "You don’t really count those. It’s just something that we’ll just get past."
It’s not the first time the Wolves have had to do that recently. They have now been told by the NBA three times since last March that officials made an error in one of their games. Last season, the NBA said officials shouldn’t have ejected J.J. Barea from a game against Miami on March 4 after a confrontation with Ray Allen in the fourth quarter.
Later that month, the league said officials erred in not calling Kobe Bryant for a foul on Ricky Rubio’s last-second 3-point attempt that allowed the Los Angeles Lakers to win, 120-117, on March 27.
"Sometimes, it’s even more frustrating" when the league acknowledges the mistake, Rubio said Tuesday. "We can’t do nothing. If they didn’t call it, they didn’t call it. That’s it. We don’t care if they say it was a foul or not. They didn’t call it. We didn’t have the chance to tie the game, and we lost that game."
But Rubio, Love and Adelman all were quick to point out that the Wolves made plenty of other mistakes themselves to allow the game to get to that point. A lackluster first half had them down by 19 points at halftime and 21 early in the third quarter, and the flat start ultimately cost them.
"The first half, it was terrible," Rubio said. "We aren’t gonna blame the ref for that game. … It was us who put us in that situation."
After the game, Adelman expressed what has been a growing concern among the team this season — that Love and, to a lesser extent, Nikola Pekovic aren’t getting the respect from the officials that they deserve.
Pekovic, the team’s bruising center, often finishes the games with bruises on his arms and shoulders from banging in the paint. But like other heavyweights before him, including Shaquille O’Neal and Yao Ming, his sheer strength can often make it difficult for officials to see him getting fouled.
Love is off to an MVP-caliber start to this season, and Adelman said that it’s time for officials to start realizing that.
"He got fouled," Minnesota coach Rick Adelman said. "I wonder what that would have been if (Dirk) Nowitzki, LeBron James, all the top players in the league — a guy reaches on a last-second shot like that, instead of challenging it. Maybe they don’t understand that Kevin is one of the top five players in this league. You make that call. But they didn’t."
As of late Tuesday afternoon, there was no indication that Adelman would get fined for his comments. And he wasn’t interested in revisiting the subject after practice.
"It’s over with," Adelman said. "It doesn’t do any good to think about it now."