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The Cleveland Cavaliers mounted a furious fourth quarter rally to beat the Golden State Warriors in a Christmas Day NBA Finals rematch that came down to the final possession. Kyrie Irving hit a fade-away jumper with three seconds left to give the Cavs a 109-108 lead, and on the other end of the floor Kevin Durant missed a heave from his knees after he appeared to be fouled by Richard Jefferson. The refs swallowed their whistles, and the Cavs won.
On Monday, the NBA admitted that refs were wrong to not whistle Jefferson for a foul on Durant.
“Jefferson (CLE) makes foot to foot contact with Durant (GSW) that affects his SQBR (speed, quickness, balance, rhythm),” the NBA’s Last Two Minute Report stated.
Because the Warriors were in the bonus, although Jefferson did not foul Durant in the act of shooting, Durant should still have gone to the line for two shots and a chance to win the game.
Here’s the play:
The NBA also admitted to missing a technical foul on LeBron James, who after dunking with 1:43 left in the fourth “deliberately hangs on the rim”. According to the report, James hung on the rim for 2.86 seconds, but no technical was given.
Of course, the Warriors did not lose because the refs missed those calls. They led by double digits in the fourth quarter and let the Cavs claw their way back. That, more than any missed call, explained their loss.
Jefferson, for his part, provided some interesting insight into the final play, at least from his perspective.
“We all think we’re fouled on every play in every single game,” Jefferson told ESPN. “That’s why I say I know the referees have a very hard job. I switched to his body. It looked like he lost his balance. He was trying to regain his balance, and as soon as I saw him start to stumble, I ran off. I ran off so it wouldn’t look like I was trying to pressure him more, so he didn’t trip on my foot and it looked like I bumped him – nothing.”
He continued: “It’s one of those things; plays can go either way. … When you get down to these two quality teams, each play back and forth, everything can be dissected. It’s just one of those things that went in our favor at the last play.”
The Cavs have now won their last four meetings with the Warriors. If all goes according to plan, the two teams will meet again for another seven-game series sometime this June.