One of the most difficult calls to make in the split second of fast-paced NBA action helped swing Game 1 of the NBA Finals in Golden State’s favor. Officials went to a replay review because they weren’t sure if LeBron James‘ feet were outside the restricted area when Kevin Durant slammed into him in the final minute of regulation in a game Cleveland lost 124-114 in overtime Thursday night.
The play came with about 30 seconds left and the Cavaliers leading 104-102 after James converted a three-point play as part of a 51-point night.
The initial signal was for a charge, which would have given Cleveland the ball. But the officials then called for a replay, as NBA rules allow for that type of play in the final two minutes of regulation or in overtime.
“We were told they were reviewing if I had my feet outside the line,” James said. “And when I knew that, I was like, OK, that’s going to be our ball. I knew I was outside the charge line, so that’s what the communication was to us. We were over on the sideline, drawing up a play, you know, to try to execute, try to go up a couple possessions.”
During the replay, officials can also look to determine if the defensive player was in a legal guarding position, and they decided James wasn’t.
“It was determined he was out of the restricted area, but he was not in a legal guarding position prior to Durant’s separate shooting motion,” referee Ken Mauer told a pool reporter. “So we had to change it to a blocking foul.”
The overturn angered the Cavaliers, who were upset the call even went to review because they felt James was clearly outside the restricted area.
“It doesn’t make sense to go review something if the review is if he’s on the line or if he’s close to the charge circle, that’s the review. He wasn’t close,” coach Tyronn Lue said. “So what are we reviewing? Either call a blocking foul or call an offensive foul. For our team to come out and play their hearts out and compete the way we did, man, I mean, it’s bad.
“It’s never been done before where you know he’s outside the restricted, and then you go there and overturn the call and say it’s a block. It’s never been done, ever, in the history of the game. And then tonight in the finals on the biggest stage, when our team played well, played our (butt) off, man, it ain’t right. It ain’t right.”
Durant said he had seen that play reviewed before and was confident he would get the call once officials looked at the replay.
“I knew that. I knew he was late on the drive, and I knew I had my man beat and he came over a little late,” he said. “So when they called the charge, I was surprised, but I’m glad they reviewed it.”
While James was moving when Durant left the ground, he still believed he was in a legal position and should have gotten the call even after it went to replay.
“I thought I read that play just as well as I read any play in my career, defensively,” he said. “I saw the drive, I was outside the charge line, I stepped in, took the contact. It’s a huge play. It’s a huge play.”