LeBron no-call at end of Warriors-Cavs shows how and why replay must be fixed

Before we address the two non-calls that should've put LeBron James on the free throw line down the stretch of the Cavaliers' 99-92 Christmas Day loss to the Warriors, let's be clear: 

The referees swallowing their whistles on what looked to be two pretty obvious fouls was not the reason the Cavs fell short vs. the champs. They fell short because, all told, the Warriors are still a better team, even without Stephen Curry, and especially when LeBron isn't attacking as a scorer and Cleveland's bench, other than Dwyane Wade, is a collective no-show. 

That said, these two fouls should've been called. Here's the first:

That is a foul. LeBron does slap Kevin Durant's hand away, but the reach initiates it all. Cleveland was in the bonus. LeBron should've been going to the line to potentially cut Golden State's lead to one with just over a minute to play. Instead, Golden State gets it back up three, and by the time Cleveland touches it again, there are less than 30 seconds to play. 

Now, let's be clear about something else: Missed calls happen. So this is not, any in capacity, an attempt to place any blame whatsoever on the officials. They make mistakes just like players. It's part of the game. But you want to know what else is part of the game? Replay. 

Which brings us to the second missed call, which was much more egregious and ultimately impactful in terms of the outcome. Take a look:

After this play, the officials went to the replay monitor, as it seems they do a hundred times down the stretch of games, to determine who had touched the ball last. Of course, when they got to the monitor and saw what we had all seen on the television replay, they knew LeBron clearly had been fouled. But there was nothing they could do about it. Fouls -- or in this case, non-fouls -- are not reviewable. All they could do was determine that LeBron had touched the ball last, which he had, and award possession to Golden State. 

Again, consider the situation here. Cavs down three, less than 30 seconds to play. LeBron goes to the line there and makes a couple free throws, it's a one-point game. Who knows what happens. Instead, Golden State gets it back, makes a couple free throws of its own, and the game is effectively over. 

There is just no other way to say this: If you're going to make official replays a part of the game and regularly bring the pace of action to a screeching halt, then at least make it worthwhile. 

Jackson, the NBA's former executive vice president of basketball operations, is exactly right here. What is the point of instituting a rule that is 100 percent aimed at getting crucial calls correct, only to limit the officials' ability to actually do that? Sure the ball was off LeBron. He also got cracked across the face by Durant -- who, for his part, didn't have much interest in discussing the play(s) after the game.

Fair enough if you're Durant. His team won the game. And to his credit, he did play pretty good defense on those plays. He competed. He contested. He also fouled, certainly on the second one. Again, it's not the reason the Cavs lose. But it didn't exactly help either. 

As for what can be done about this, well, that's perhaps a bit more complicated. Clearly we can't have officials reviewing every question foul call or no-call. It seems logical to make foul calls reviewable within the last two minutes -- or at least to make it within the rules if a play is being reviewed for other purposes, such as an out-of-bounds possession, but a foul is noticed on a replay, it can be ruled upon accordingly. Maybe we could have a couple coach challenges per game like in the NFL

Whatever the solution, it can't stay like this if there is going to be any integrity to the review process in the first place. If you aren't armed with the authority to get the call not just partly right, but completely right, we'd be better off scrapping the process altogether and speeding the game back up. 

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