Referees acknowledge incorrectly called kicked ball on Pacers late in loss to Knicks

Updated May. 7, 2024 12:11 a.m. ET

NEW YORK (AP) — Referees said they incorrectly called a late kicked ball violation Monday night against the Indiana Pacers, who by rule couldn't challenge the play.

The Pacers and New York Knicks were tied at 115 with 52 seconds remaining when Aaron Nesmith appeared to knock away a pass Jalen Brunson was attempting to throw to Donte DiVincenzo. The Pacers could have come up with the ball for a steal, but referee Sean Wright said Nesmith hit it with his foot, allowing the Knicks to retain possession.

New York took the lead for good 12 seconds later when DiVincenzo made a 3-pointer and won 121-117 in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.

After the game, crew chief Zach Zarba said the call was incorrect.


“On the floor we felt that would be a kicked ball violation,” Zarba said. “Postgame review did show that it hit the defender’s hand, which would be legal.”

Zarba added that the Pacers could not have challenged the call, saying those can only be used for fouls, goaltending calls and out-of-bounds calls.

The Pacers felt a subsequent call went against them, when Myles Turner was called for a offensive foul on a pick that knocked DiVincenzo to the court with 12 seconds to play. Indiana did challenge that one, with the call being upheld on review.

“Just in my experience in this league I think it’s best when you let the players decide the outcome of the game,” Turner said. “I think it’s unfortunate that it happened ... called it an illegal screen. It’s the playoffs. I think DiVincenzo did a good job selling it. For the most part you can’t leave the game to be decided by the refs. We have to take accountability as well. We know at the end of the day we can’t get to that position.”

The Pacers won their other challenge, getting a foul on Tyrese Haliburton overturned with the game tied at 113-all with 1:51 remaining.

“I think the two controversial calls, we had to use our challenge on one call (on) Tyrese, then the kicked ball on Aaron Nesmith that was not a kickball. You can clearly see that on the replays,” Turner added. “So, it’s unfortunate but we can’t put ourselves in that position.”