With 0.5 seconds to go in a tie game with the Atlanta Hawks, Toronto Raptors guard Carlos Delfino put up an inbounds alley-oop pass for T.J. Ford. The point guard laid it in for what appeared to have been the winning points, a victory that would have clinched an NBA playoff berth for the Raptors.
The Raptors' celebration was short-lived, though. The referees reviewed the video and said the shot was made after time had expired. During the review, the Raptors argued the clock was started too early.
The clock should not have started until Ford touched the ball. The Raptors felt that it started before that. Replays seem to confirm their contention and it is expected that the team will lodge a protest with the league.
The game the Raptors led by as many as 17 points in the third quarter became a Hawks 127-120 overtime victory before an announced crowd of 14,691 at the Philips Arena.
"I don't know what to say," Raptors head coach Sam Mitchell said. "It looked like an early clock to me. When we go in the room and look at it, it seemed like when T.J. caught the ball, four-tenths of a second was already gone. And the clock shouldn't have started until he actually touched the basketball. Before he had touched it, the clock had started.
"They called the basket good [before the review] Whatever complaint is possible, I'm sure we're going to do that, then it's up to the powers that be."
Mitchell said the officials called the basket good on the floor. "So the issue is: Did the clock start early?" he said.
Mike Bibby made a three-point shot to tie the score 107-107 with 0.5 seconds left. The Raptors tried to foul Bibby before he was in position to make the three-point shot, but he eluded the effort.
Then the Raptors set up to try for the chance to win the game with one-half of a second left with a play that was drawn up in the huddle.
"It's actually the first time we've run that," said Ford, who scored 23 points. "It worked to perfection ... but as you know, it didn't count."
Ford said the crowd reaction warned him that it might be disallowed.
"I'm sure you've heard it by now, if you can catch and shoot in point-3 and you can't catch and drop it in in point-5, you know that's something you've got to ask," said Raptors forward Chris Bosh, who scored 24 points.
Last season in Atlanta, the Raptors were denied two points when a basket by Ford was not added in for some reason. "We've got to do something about this," Bosh said. "Last year, they didn't add [two]points, and this year they start the clock early. We lose both games. It's not okay, but I mean you just have to take it. I mean, it's over. Atlanta played hard, we played hard. We obviously had the play. We drew it up the right way in the last second and it should have counted.
"I don't think they expected it. T.J., he did a good job with his concentration and everything. What's the rule? Point-3 you can get a shot off, and we couldn't get a shot off in point-5 seconds. It doesn't make sense. Do the math."
"I would like to think that with point-5 seconds left and the guy catches an alley-oop and doesn't do anything fancy with the ball, just catches it and drops it in," said Anthony Parker, who scored 12 points. "I thought it was good."
But as Ford mentioned, the lead was lost, and he said, "We put ourselves in that situation."
"We knew they were going to make a run," Parker said. "We had some opportunities to try to distance ourselves and put the game away."
Joe Johnson scored 28 points for the Hawks, Bibby scored 26 and Josh Smith scored 24. The Hawks have won six games in a row at home and have won nine of their past 11 games.
"We tried to make them shoot threes," Mitchell said. "We knew that Josh Smith had not been shooting the ball well. So we tried to make him beat us and he did."