NBA says no incorrect calls were made in final seconds of Game 6. Why time was added


The NBA stood by the officiating late in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals, saying on Sunday that no incorrect calls were made in the final seconds and indicating that officials were correct in adding more time to the game clock in the final seconds.

When Boston coach Joe Mazzulla challenged Al Horford’s foul on Jimmy Butler late in the Heat’s Game 6 loss on Saturday, the Celtics triggered events that helped the Heat initially but hurt Miami ultimately.

After a review by officials both at the game and the NBA Replay Center in Secaucus, New Jersey, Butler’s shot - with the Heat trailing by two - was ruled a three-point attempt (it had initially been ruled a two-pointer) and he was awarded three free throws, instead of two.

Butler gave the Heat a one-point lead by making all three free throws. But after a Boston timeout, the Celtics won the game when Derrick White rebounded Marcus Smart’s missed three-pointer and hit a put-back as time expired.

Two key points:

▪ The officials at the game could have reviewed the Horford foul and given Butler three free throws, even if the Celtics hadn’t challenged the foul call.

▪ But the Celtics’ challenge allowed the NBA to put more time back on the clock, something that couldn’t have been done without a coach’s challenge.

In the process of reviewing the play during the game, the NBA determined that Horford’s foul occurred with three seconds left and put nearly a full second back on the clock, from 2.1 seconds to 3 seconds, just before Butler shot the free throws.

The NBA said Sunday that the situation was handled correctly.

“Horford made contact with Butler during his shooting motion and a foul was warranted,” the NBA said late Sunday afternoon its standard report on calls made in the final two minutes of games. “During the review, the Replay Center Official also determined that i) the foul occurred at 3.0 seconds and adjusted the clock accordingly …”

That extra time ultimately gave White just enough time to rebound Smart’s miss and score as time expired; he shot the ball with a tenth of a second left.

Some suggested that Butler might have double-dribbled before the Horford foul, but the NBA said Butler did not double-dribble on that play, ruling that “Butler fumbles the ball out of his control when he ends his dribble, then recovers it and legally attempts a field goal.”

The NBA said two incorrect non-calls were made in the final two minutes, and both benefitted the Heat: The league said the Heat’s Gabe Vincent fouled Jayson Tatum on a jumper with 33 seconds left and Caleb Martin committed a lane violation on a Jaylen Brown free throw with 1:01 left.

On the Celtics’ game-winning play, Max Strus initially left White -- who made the inbounds pass -- in order to help Butler defend Tatum.

“Max did the right thing, making that ball go anywhere but Jayson Tatum,” Erik Spoelstra said.

Tatum didn’t touch the ball on that final possession. Strus, to his credit, bolted to the basket on the miss, but White had a step on him and got the perfect carom off the rim.

“I’m still in disbelief,” Tatum said. “That [expletive] was crazy.”

More reaction from the Celtics on the game’s final seconds and rallying from an 0-3 hole:

▪ After making the in-bounds pass to Smart, White wisely darted to the basket and was in perfect position to grab the rebound off Smart’s miss and delivered the game-winning put-back.

“It doesn’t do [any] good to stand in the corner there,” White said. “Whether he makes it or not, I just was crashing the glass, and it came right to me.”

▪ Jaylen Brown: “It all happened so fast. Derrick White, like a flash of lightning, just came out of nowhere and saved the day. It was just an incredible play.”

But “it means nothing if we come and lay an egg on our home floor” in Game 7, he added.

▪ Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla said “Smart made a great play getting open to get a shot off” with Vincent closely contesting it.

“And D-White made a great play,” Mazzulla said.

▪ The Celtics had missed 11 consecutive shots before White’s game-winner. “Bricks,” Mazzulla said of Boston’s offense in the final five minutes. “They went zone, slowed us down a little bit.”

▪ Mazzulla, on how the Celtics have rallied from an 0-3 hole: “Faith, love, togetherness, physicality, belief, hope, all those things combined. But it starts in the locker-room. Those guys had a choice to make and they chose to believe in each other.”

Brown said: “It doesn’t get much worse than being down 0-3. We feel like we’ve been to hell and back.”


Vincent is listed as questionable for Game 7 because of a sprained right ankle; he played through the injury in Game 6 after missing Game 5 but continues to receive treatment. Tyler Herro (hand) and Victor Oladipo (knee) remain out.

Celtics guard Malcolm Brogdon, who missed Game 6 with a right forearm strain, was listed as questionable for Monday’s Game 7 in Boston (8:30 p.m., TNT).