When the fourth-quarter buzzer sounded Tuesday night in Dallas, TNT was flashing across the bottom of the television screen the score and time from the Laker-Knickerbocker game, which was the second game of its doubleheader. There was 11:05 left in the first quarter in Los Angeles when regulation ended in Dallas.
The Thunder and the Mavericks then played an overtime. When that overtime ended, with Dallas winning 128-119, the Laker-Knick scoreclock declared 9:04 remaining. In the second quarter.
In the time it took the Thunder and Mavs to go through a break, then play a five-minute overtime, the Lakers and Knicks played 14 game minutes, plus three timeouts and a quarter break.
How did this happen? Sure, the Mavs and Thunder had the regular strategy timeouts that you see at the end of any close NBA game, though there were only three overtime, same as in the Laker-Knick game. And there were a few extra stoppages for foul shots, as the Thunder futilely tried to make up its deficit in the last minute.
But 14 minutes of game action vs. five minutes of game action, over the same real-time stretch? How can that be?
Oh, it be. Thanks to replay review.
Four times in overtime, officials stopped play to review a call or a clock issue:
1. 3:44 left in overtime, Reggie Jackson fumbled the ball out of bounds on a drive (he actually was fouled; both his arms were grabbed, but that’s beside the point). The refs ruled Dallas ball, then conferred and decided to watch the replay. After a delay of 2:33, the refs upheld the ruling. Twenty seconds after that, the Mavs inbounded the ball.
2. 0:43.5 seconds left in overtime, the Thunder fouled Brendan Wright on a rebound. Then the refs stopped play and went to the monitor. After a delay of 44 seconds, they had the clock reset to 44.8 seconds.
3. 0:42.5 seconds left in overtime, Wright’s missed foul shot caromed out of bounds as Jackson and Vince Carter battled for the ball. The ref signaled OKC ball. Just as Serge Ibaka was about to inbound the ball, officials stopped play again. They went back to the monitor and spent 3:40 to finally rule that it indeed was Thunder ball. Twenty-two seconds later, the Thunder inbounded.
4. 0:35.2 seconds left, Carter’s inbounds pass near midcourt went out of bounds, and officials ruled it went off Jackson’s hands. Then play was stopped, and after 2:10, the refs overruled the call, saying the ball was off Jose Calderon. Twenty-nine seconds after that, the Thunder inbounded the ball.
One stoppage on a timing issue, costing 44 seconds. Three stoppages to determine possession, costing 9:34. Almost 10 minutes of real time was spent with officials reviewing calls.
I know things have changed. I know we can’t go back in time. I know replay review is part of all sports these days.
But what happened in the Thunder-Mav game was ridiculous. The process has to be sped up. It was clear after 30 seconds that Jackson’s fumble was indeed off Jackson. The other two calls were less clear, but still, there was no reason to spend more than a minute on them. The delays should have totaled three minutes tops. Not 9 1/2.
Perhaps the NBA needs to take all replay reviews to a central location in New York. Perhaps stoppages over one second of time are not necessary, unless we’re in the final 10 seconds of the game. I don’t know what the answer is. I just know OKC-Dallas ground to a halt. Drama delayed is drama denied.
A great game lost its excitement and its rhythm. It was absurd. The desire to get every call right is admirable. But a total sellout to technology comes at a high price. A game of flow becomes a game of stagnation. Which no one wants to see.
If we’re going to review plays in the final two minutes of regulation and all of overtime, get in, get out and get on with it. There is a game to be played.