The Rarest of NBA Treats: a Game Protest is Granted

It's the first time it has happened since David Stern took over the league. I thought I might live my entire life without seeing it happen. But it has happened.

You know how teams sometimes file protests after some official mistake or other hurts them in a game? It's a cute little formality.

Until today.

The League has agreed with the protesting team, and as a result, the Miami Heat will get a do-over of the last minute or so of a game they lost to the Atlanta Hawks.

Shaquille O'Neal fouled out of that game with 51.9 seconds left, but as it turns out, he in fact only had five fouls. So the next time those two teams play, they will first finish their last game. It'll be the shortest basketball game in history, I suppose. Hope those coaches have some good plays ready.

Here's the press release:

The NBA today granted a game protest filed by the Miami Heat after its 117-111 loss to the Atlanta Hawks on December 19 at Philips Arena, which will result in the replay of the final 51.9 seconds of the game's overtime period with the Hawks leading 114-111. The replay will occur immediately prior to the next scheduled game between the two teams -- on March 8, 2008, also at Philips Arena.

The Heat protested the game because, with 51.9 seconds remaining in overtime, the Hawks' scoring table personnel incorrectly disqualified the Heat's Shaquille O'Neal - asserting that a foul committed by O'Neal was his sixth foul of the game, when in fact it was only his fifth. The error occurred because the Hawks' Official Scorer mistakenly attributed to O'Neal a foul at 3:24 remaining in the fourth period that was actually called against the Heat's Udonis Haslem.

NBA Commissioner David Stern found that the Hawks were grossly negligent in committing this scoring error, since they failed to follow league-mandated scoring procedures and failed to respond effectively when the members of the statisticians' crew noticed the mistake. Because of this conduct by Atlanta's personnel, Miami suffered a clear competitive disadvantage, as O'Neal - the Heat's second leading scorer and rebounder that night - was removed from a one-point game with only 51.9 seconds remaining. Under this unprecedented set of circumstances, the Commissioner granted the Heat's protest, and fined the Hawks $50,000 for their violation of league rules.

The protest is the first granted by the NBA since December 14, 1982 when then-NBA Commissioner Larry O'Brien upheld a protest by the San Antonio Spurs concerning their 137-132 double overtime loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Nov. 30. The Spurs and Lakers finished the game on April 13 with San Antonio collecting a 117-114 win.

UPDATE: Some other notes:

  • This game is now not officially over, which means the Hawks will lose a win in the standings and the Heat will be absolved of one loss. The Heat are now a delightful 8-27 while the Hawks are 15-16. Also, statistics from this game will be removed from players' averages until the game is complete.

  • Atlanta is also where, last season, a scorekeeper neglected to record a Toronto basket (via Hoopinion). It's a basket that could have changed the game. Wonder if it was the same scorekeeper.

  • Micah Hart on the Hawks' official website has the particulars: "First of all, to set the scene, Shaq fouled Al Horford with 51.9 left on the clock. Horford made the pair, making the score 114-111. So, when they start the replay, it will be 114-111 Hawks lead, and Miami will have ball possession. Shaq will remain in the game (if the Heat so choose, and if he is healthy) with the five fouls, and I guess we'll see what happens."