Should Wade's game-winner have counted?


Dwyane Wade took an illegal extra step on this play.

In the golden age of information, the referees have it tough. With access to video, a live rewind button and a website, we can second guess their every move on the court from our couch and publish it for the world to see. If a referee swallows their whistle or doesn't make a correct call, we're all over that referee for days. But 20 years ago? Life goes on.

In Wednesday night's game against the Charlotte Bobcats, Dwyane Wade made a game-winning play that warranted a closer look. Our friend Rob Mahoney, who writes about the Dallas Mavericks for ESPN TrueHoop Network's Two Man Game and generally about the NBA at the New York Times NBA blog, runs a series at Hardwood Paroxysm called "Have Ball, Will Travel" that analyzes with video whether a travel call should be made on a questionable play. Sometimes the correct call is made, sometimes it is not.

After review, Mahoney arrives at his conclusion: Wade got away with a travel on his game-winner. Mahoney explains:

Post-jump stop pivot moves are about as easy as travel calls get; while drives through traffic or quick spin moves often require slow motion to fully assess without a reasonable doubt, the jump stop is a clear and distinct action easily differentiated from any illegal steps that follow. Even at full speed, we’re able to see Wade execute a nice jump stop, but negate his move with what should have been a turnover.

It wasn’t. The officiating crew flat-out missed this game-changing call, which should come as little surprise to those who regularly eye the footwork of ball handlers in the waning moments of any close game. Most officials do their best to avoid interventionism at such a crucial juncture, and thus whistles of virtually any kind become a bit harder to come by. Such was the case here, and Wade capitalized by completing the possession with a bucket.

When I watched the game live, nothing seemed fishy about the play. But if you take a closer look, you'll see that what Wade did was illegal. He moved his pivot foot when it's against the rules to do so.

You're supposed to stop on a jump stop.

Watching the play again, you'll notice that as soon as Wade took that extra step, the Bobcats bench immediately started motioning for a travel. They saw it, but the referees didn't. See for yourself in Mahoney's post.

Perhaps the missed call was some sort of unintentional karmic payback by the referees. Earlier in the game, they somehow didn't credit count the basket when LeBron James dunked the ball on Gerald Henderson and the ball ricocheted off of Henderson's head underneath the basket and bounced back out through the net. After much protest by LeBron and the rest of the Heat, the refs thought it bounced off the back iron, when it clearly did not.

Or at least it was clear to anyone watching on DVR from their couch.

So in the end, perhaps it evened out and the Heat should have been awarded the decisive two points anyway. But two wrongs don't make a right; the referees didn't make the right call in both instances.

UPDATE: The NBA stands by the no-call on Wade's game-winner as you can see on its website (with video!). The key is discerning when the "gather" actually happens. The league maintains that it happened while his right foot was still on the floor (making it a legal play). It's tough to tell and it doesn't help that Wade is really fast, but it appears the referees made the correct no-call. But the LeBron dunk no-call is a whole different matter.