...was greater than the amount of time Dwight Howard spent in the lane last night during a crucial play near the end of the Magic's loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Howard was whistled for a three-second violation that negated the Magic’s possession and gave the ball back to Cleveland with 30 seconds left and a two point lead.
Magic Coach Stan Van Gundy was beside himself in reaction to the call. Three-second violations are not uncommon, in general, but they are rarely called late in a close game.
“You won't see that call again. That, I guarantee you," Van Gundy said. "You will not see, with the game on the line, a 3-second call in the last 10 seconds. That's part of the reason they're 30-1 at home. They're a very good team, and when you get calls like that [expletive], you're in pretty good shape."
What made it worse is the fact that Howard was on his way out of the lane when the ref blew the whistle. So, Howard was policing himself, going by the rules, and exited the lane in the time allotted. But the ref jumped the whistle. Howard implied that their may have been some home cooking involved.
"I was very surprised," Howard said. "I was in the lane and I got out. It seemed like their bench or their coaching staff got into the ref's ear about me being in the lane. Instead of letting the refs make the call, I guess the bench made the call."
I had the game recorded on my DVR and reviewed that play over and over with my stop watch from the moment that Howard entered the lane until the moment that I could hear referee Jack Nies blow his whistle. By my measurement, the whistle was blown well before 3 seconds, in fact, it was barely past two seconds. This makes me think that the ref had been watching Howard the whole game and maybe after enough complaining from the Cavs bench, he made a conscious decision to blow his whistle right then.
The problem I have with this goes beyond the idea of “make up” calls or even placing an emphasis on when during the course of a game it is acceptable to make or not make certain calls. The idea that rules already being enforced by subjective individuals are themselves subjective is extremely consternating. But in this case, the problem is that the call was incorrect! Howard was not in the lane for three seconds. Had he clearly been in the lane for over three seconds and the ref blew the whistle, we would still be talking about the call not being appropriate at that time. But at least we would have to admit that it was the right call. But this isn’t the case. Howard was not in the lane for three seconds…not even close.
I won’t go so far as to say that this call cost us the game. Most folks in the Magic blogosphere prefer to place the focus on Rashard Lewis and his recent slump. I agree that this is a bigger issue than one call. However, it is clear to me that when two elite teams are this evenly matched, it only takes one bad call to make a difference in which team wins and which team loses.