|For first time since '82, NBA upholds protest requiring replay|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 11 January 2008 15:08|
The Hawks won 117-111 at home in overtime Dec. 19. The NBA said Friday the replay will be held before the teams' next scheduled game - March 8 in Atlanta. Play will start from the time after O'Neal's disputed sixth foul, with the Hawks leading 114-111.
``Wait a minute! I picked up a win today, or lost a loss,'' Heat coach Pat Riley quipped in New Orleans, where the Heat were getting set to play the Hornets. ``I can wake up tomorrow knowing there's one less loss.''
The Hawks also were fined $50,000, with commissioner David Stern ruling the team was ``grossly negligent'' in failing to address the mistake.
The protest is the first granted by the NBA since December 1982, when then-NBA commissioner Larry O'Brien upheld a request for a replay by the San Antonio Spurs after their 137-132 double-overtime loss to the Los Angeles Lakers the previous month.
The Spurs and Lakers finished the game in April 1983, with San Antonio winning 117-114.
The Hawks were leading 112-111 in overtime when O'Neal was called for a foul. The scoring table personnel, who are provided by the home team, ruled it was the Miami center's sixth foul, when actually it was only his fifth.
``That's crazy, man! I don't even think I can play because I fouled out,'' Atlanta's Josh Smith said. ``David Stern is the head honcho, so if he says we've got to play another 51 seconds that's what we've got to play. Bottom line.''
According to the league, the mistake stemmed from a foul with 3:24 remaining in the fourth quarter that was called on Udonis Haslem but was mistakenly credited to O'Neal at the scoring table.
Stern ruled the Hawks ``failed to follow league-mandated scoring procedures and failed to respond effectively when the members of the statisticians' crew noticed the mistake,'' the NBA said in a statement.
Said Haslem: ``I'm not the kind of guy who likes to argue or cry over spilled milk, but we've got a second chance so we'll try to make the best of it.''
While the Heat are having a miserable season, going into Friday's game last in the Eastern Conference with a record that is now 8-27 instead of 8-28, the decision could have a profound impact on Atlanta's hopes of making the playoffs for the first time since 1999.
Losing the win over Miami dropped the Hawks to 15-16, leaving them with the eighth - and final - seed in the East. Imagine if they lose the replay, then miss the playoffs by one game.
``Bottom line is we're here to try to make the playoffs,'' coach Mike Woodson said. ``You've got to live with it. We'll face those 51 seconds in March.''
The NBA requires the official scorer to coordinate foul calls with the stat crew during every timeout. That apparently didn't happen in this case, resulting in the mistake going unnoticed until after the game, when the Hawks put out revised boxes showing O'Neal with six fouls.
``Other than filing the protest, I haven't given it any thought since then. It wasn't until everybody started doing some research on all of the things that went on behind the scenes,'' Riley said.
``I don't really know the what the checks and balances are for fouls and how they're done. I think the league felt we probably deserved an opportunity to go back and play the last 51 seconds.''
Especially since this involved Atlanta, where another statistical problem occurred last season. On Nov. 24, 2006, the official scorer failed to credit Toronto's T.J. Ford with a basket that would have given the Raptors a late tie and an opportunity to change the outcome of a 97-93 loss.
``Because of this conduct by Atlanta's personnel, Miami suffered a clear competitive disadvantage, as O'Neal - the Heat's second-leading scorer and rebounder that night - was removed from a one-point game with only 51.9 seconds remaining,'' the NBA statement said.
Al Horford hit two free throws after O'Neal's foul to put the Hawks up 114-111. Anthony Johnson added a running jumper with 14 seconds left to put the game away.
Now, they'll have to do it over again. The NBA decided to let Horford's free throws stand, meaning it will be Miami's ball, with the Hawks up by three.
``It's always something with the Hawks,'' Atlanta guard Tyronn Lue said. ``It's a bad business, man, but we'll get through it.''
AP Sports Writer Brett Martel in New Orleans and AP freelance writer Amy Jinkner-Lloyd in Atlanta contributed to this report.