The Charlotte Hornets have a hard enough time in close games without having a point flat out taken away from them by the officials. At around the seven-minute mark of the fourth quarter of Charlotte's 122-119 overtime loss to the Sixers, Kemba Walker, who hung 60 points on Philly, was fouled while shooting a three-pointer. It wasn't even close. He was clearly behind the line. Yet he was only rewarded two free throws, both of which he made. The officials didn't even go to the monitor to look at the play. Have a look:
Needless to say, one point in a game that goes to overtime is, you know, sort of a big deal. Mistakes happen. Players, coaches, refs, everyone screws up. But this is inexcusable. You won't see this disaster listed in the ridiculous last-two-minute reports that the NBA issues because it didn't happen in the last two minutes. At least be thankful for that. Those reports are maddening. The NBA flat out telling you, "hey, we screwed up, we likely cost you a win, we won't do anything to change the outcome, but we are happy to relieve our guilt by rubbing your nose in the stench of our mistake a day later."
Yeah, no thanks. I'd rather you just not say anything. When I walk out of a casino having just lost my whole bank roll on a murderous beat, getting a memo the next day saying the dealer screwed up the cards doesn't mean a damn thing unless you're going to give me my money back. Get out of here with these reports. They're stupid. A lot of calls are bang-bang and human error doesn't need to be acknowledged the next day. It's understood. Nobody's perfect. But a call this blatant should never be missed in the first place. Save the report.
Players and coaches love to say how one play never decides a game, that there were always things you could've done better over the course of a game to not be in position for one play to determine an outcome. There is truth in this, but at the same time, no matter how you get into the final possessions of a game, you're there all the same. The Hornets are in a ton of these nail biters. The reality is, a lot of NBA games are decided on one or two plays. The Hornets went to overtime and had a point taken away from them. You do the math. That is what it is. Walker was 12 for 12 from the line vs. Philly. It's a pretty safe bet he would've made that free throw.
Again, Walker went for 60 against the Sixers. He shot 62 percent from the field. He was beyond incredible, as he has been all year. Should be a top-five MVP candidate for a Hornets team that continues to be much better than its 7-8 record. Charlotte had the sixth best point differential in the league entering Saturday. That is somewhat deceiving because they've blown out a lot of bad teams, but they are consistently right there in these games against upper-echelon teams. After Saturday's loss, the Hornets are 1-6 in games decided by four points or fewer. Last year they lost 12 games by five points or fewer. This is an ongoing problem.
Ultimately, Jimmy Butler won this game for the Sixers. He only scored 15 points, but he flat out won this game for the Sixers when it counted most. First, with overtime winding down and the ball in Walker's hands, Butler delivered this block-and-save gem:
That gave Philly possession in a tie game, and Butler proceeded to end it with this dagger:
Perhaps it's unfair to say the game would've gone to overtime had Walker been rewarded that third free throw. It happened with over half the fourth quarter remaining, so a lot of things happened after that. Players and teams play different based on score, so it's fair to say decisions would've changed down the stretch with a different score. Still, at the end of the day, the Hornets were robbed of a point in a game that went to overtime. For a team that could well be right on the playoff line by season's end, this is going to sting all season long.