UPDATED 10:33 p.m ET
As league officials reviewed the matter on Tuesday, the determination was made that referee Ken Mauer called goaltending on Noah's illegal tip-in, thus triggering the replay review, a person familiar with the matter told CBSSports.com.
A possible goaltending violation by a defensive player or basket interference by an offensive player can only be reviewed during the final two minutes of regulation or the entire overtime period if a call was made in the first place. The reason the league's competition committee decided on that approach was to avoid stopping play in a live-ball situation for a video review.
For example, suppose Koufos had missed his putback attempt with 46.4 seconds left and the ball was tapped out to halfcourt, resulting in a fastbreak opportunity for the Bulls. Without an official's call stopping the clock, the competition committee did not want a live play blown dead based on the possibility that a goaltending violation was missed.
On Koufos' putback, no call was made and the play was not reviewable. League officials have determined that, on Noah's play, Mauer did, in fact, call interference -- thus explaining why he went immediately to the replay monitor to review the play. Mauer's call is not visible in this video breakdown from Eye on Basketball nor is it apparent that the play was ruled a made basket on the floor.
In fact, other camera angles appear to show no indication of a call from Mauer and instead show that he was making his way from the foul-line extended to halfcourt when Denver called time out and he was approached by Nuggets coach George Karl.
Noah and Carlos Boozer told reporters afterward that they heard the baseline official, who was positioned in the corner, call it a made basket. But replay angles that the league has reviewed showed that neither player appeared to be close enough to hear such a call.
Noah's basket was correctly waved off, as it turned out, and the Nuggets held on for their 12th straight victory 119-118.
From this episode, we've learned two things. One, if a referee is going to make a goaltending or basket interference call in the final seconds of a one-possession game, he'd better make sure the entire arena can see it. And two, it might be time to finally adopt the FIBA goaltending rule, under which the ball is in play on the cylinder regardless of whether it is coming off the rim or not.
Noah's violation was obvious on the replay. The Koufos play was much more difficult to discern and cried out for replay review that wasn't available under the rules. Better to do away with such violations altogether rather than invite controversy and put the officials in an impossible position, right?
Of course, none of this makes the Bulls feel any better. And a demonstrative call from Mauer in the first place on the Noah play -- if he made one at all -- would've saved everyone a lot of aggravation.