The Raptors appeared to tie Sunday night's game against the Kings with a three at the buzzer from Terrence Ross that splashed home as time expired.
But the referees determined that there was a “clock malfunction,” which is the league's term for when the clock doesn't start as it's supposed to.
In this case, it should have started the moment DeMarcus Cousins tipped the ball, and the NBA's off-site replay center reached the conclusion that had the clock been started properly, the shot from Ross would have been released after time had expired.
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No basket. Kings win, 102-99.
Referee crew chief Mike Callahan told a pool reporter that “a digital timer on the screen in the replay center, from different angles” showed that 2.5 seconds elapsed from the time Cousins tipped the ball to the moment Ross released it; there were only 2.4 seconds on the game clock.
The Raptors, obviously, were furious. But a day later, the NBA's Last Two Minute Report confirmed that the referees got it right.
The on-court referees noticed a clock malfunction on the inbounds play and correctly triggered an instant replay. After communicating with the Replay Center, it was determined that the clock should have started when Cousins (SAC) tips the ball and run to 0:00.00 before Ross’ (TOR) shot was released.
A tenth of a second is the smallest of margins, and Toronto will reportedly file an official protest with the league to see if the ruling can be reversed.
In the unlikely event that the protest is upheld, the Raptors and the Kings would need to play the overtime portion of the game at some point in the future — and that's where things begin to get weird.
During the 2007-08 season, the Hawks and the Heat replayed the final 51.9 seconds of a December game because the stat crew mistakenly ruled that Shaquille O'Neal, then with Miami, had fouled out in the overtime session.
When the teams met in March and this portion of the game was replayed, O'Neal wasn't even there: He had been traded to Phoenix in February, which made the whole thing fairly ridiculous.