Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic made a controversial game-saving block on New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson Wednesday night with under five seconds left in the game, which preserved a 114-112 Denver win. The problem, though, is that a foul should have been called on Jokic on the play, and the NBA admitted as much on Thursday. On the L2M report for the game, the league acknowledged that Jokic made contact with Williamson's wrist on the play, and thus a foul should have been called.
If the foul was called as it should have been, Williamson would have gone to the foul line with an opportunity to tie the game and potentially force overtime. Instead, the Nuggets walked away with a win, and the Pelicans, who need every victory that they can get as they try to qualify for postseason play, took a loss.
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You can see the questionable call below:
Unfortunately for the Pelicans, the fact that an error was acknowledged doesn't help them out in the standings as the loss still stands. Williamson was asked about the non-call after the game, and the second-year star said that he sees it as a matter of respect.
"I gotta earn my respect," Williamson said, via ESPN. "I'm only in Year 2. Gotta get a couple more years under my belt and hopefully things change with that."
While Williamson was restrained in his response, his head coach was a little more blunt. When discussing the play, Stan Van Gundy pointed to what he views as a league-wide issue when it comes to physical players potentially not getting all of the calls they are entitled to.
"He gets to the free throw line a lot, and I've had referees say to me, 'How many free throws has he shot?' and it's a stupid question," Van Gundy said. "It doesn't matter. Call it every single time he gets fouled. That's all your job is ... I do think strength gets punished in this league a lot more than quickness. If you're able to go through contact a little bit, it's called differently. If you fall down every time you're hit or you flop, you get calls. That's just the way it is. It's not just Zion, that's just the way it is."
Ironically enough Jokic probably agrees with Van Gundy. He has dealt with questionable officiating all season, and recently, he and Nuggets coach Mike Malone have drawn a string of technical fouls for pointing it out. Jokic attempts only 5.1 free throws per game, far fewer than Williamson.
But it's hard to deny the contact that came on this play. Jokic may not get enough calls, but he got a break on this one, and Williamson was punished for it. Maybe someday the officials will learn how to handle unique offensive forces like Zion, but sadly, they missed a game-changing call in this game.