As we await Thursday’s Game 6 of the NBA Finals (9 p.m. ABC), let’s review a key play in Game 5.
No, not Kevin Durant’s second quarter Achilles injury or the Toronto crowd’s immediate reaction. No, not Toronto Coach Nick Nurse’s momentum-killing timeout with the Raptors up six with 3:28 left to play. No, not Klay Thompson’s three-pointer with 56 seconds left that put the Warriors up for good in the 106-105 win.
Let’s go back to the basket interference call on Golden State center DeMarcus Cousins, the ex-Kentucky Wildcat, with 1:59 left. The Warriors trailed 103-100 at the time. The basket would have pulled the visitors within a point with under two minutes to play. Whether the ball was in the cylinder was an excruciatingly close call. Several television replays, from different angles, appeared to show different conclusions. It took several minutes of the officials studying the sideline monitor before they made a decision.
Here’s the thing: Why did the officials have to make that decision?
Why haven’t both the NBA and college basketball adopted the international rule with regard to goal-tending? Once the ball hits the rim, it’s a live ball. The offense can dunk it home. The defense can swat it away.
You remember, of course, this past season’s Kentucky-LSU game at Rupp Arena. The Tigers won 73-71 on a tip-in by Kavell Bigby-Williams with one second remaining. Replays appeared to show that the ball was still in the cylinder. Kentucky players protested. John Calipari protested. Unlike the NBA, however, the college rulebook did not allow review of the play by the officials.
It does now (but only if basket interference is initially called). When the NCAA Rules Committee recently voted to move the three-point line back to the international distance next season, it also passed a rule allowing goal-tending and basket interference calls to be reviewed in the final two minutes of a game. That’s a step in the right direction.
Adopting the international rule would have been a better step. Officials already have much too much on their plates. Removing that judgment call would lighten their load a bit.
After that UK-LSU game in February, I was on Bob Valvano’s radio show in Louisville. The former Bellarmine coach recalled when he once coached overseas. International rules were in play. He was sure that teams would be dunking, tipping and swatting the ball in the cylinder at a rapid rate. Instead, it rarely happened.
Some college basketball notes:
▪ Tennessee has picked up another Pac-12 transfer. Former Oregon guard Victor Bailey has committed to the Vols. He averaged 19 minutes and 7.4 points per game last season for the Ducks. He’ll have two years of eligibility remaining after sitting out next season. He joins former Arizona State center Uros Plavsic, who is also transferring to UT.
▪ Alabama guard Tevin Mack was largely responsible for the Tide’s win over Kentucky in Tuscaloosa last January. The former Texas guard hit six three-pointers. Well, Mack is on the move again. As a graduate transfer, he’ll play next season at Clemson. He’s a Columbia, S.C., native.
▪ Former North Carolina guard Seventh Woods is transferring to South Carolina. The former four-star prospect averaged just 2.5 points and 10.8 minutes per game last year for the Tar Heels. He’s a South Carolina native. He’ll sit out next season before playing his senior year in 2020-21 with the Gamecocks.
▪ If you missed it, Dick Vitale turned 80 on Sunday. Happy belated to Dickie V.