ATLANTA -- For the first time since 1982, the NBA is sending
two teams back to the court for a do-over.
The Atlanta Hawks and Miami Heat must replay the final 51.9
seconds of their game last month because the official scorer ruled
incorrectly that Shaquille O'Neal fouled out, the league said
The Hawks won 117-111 at home in overtime Dec. 19, but strike
that one from the books. For now, playoff-contending Atlanta has
one less win, while the Heat have one less loss on their miserable
"We're human. We make mistakes," Hawks owner Michael Gearon Jr.
said. "There certainly wasn't anything malicious about it. We have
one of the most senior scoring staffs in the league. They're good.
It happened. There's not much we can do about it."
Making it a truly miserable day: Atlanta followed up Stern's
decision by losing to Washington 102-98 in overtime.
The NBA said the replay will be held before the teams' next
scheduled game: March 8 in Atlanta. Play will start from the time
after O'Neal's disputed sixth foul, with the Hawks leading 114-111.
"Wait a minute! I picked up a win today, or lost a loss," Heat
coach Pat Riley quipped in New Orleans, where the Heat played the
Hornets. "I can wake up tomorrow knowing there's one less loss."
The Hawks also were fined $50,000, with commissioner David Stern
ruling the team was "grossly negligent" in failing to address the
The protest is the first granted by the NBA since December 1982,
when then-NBA commissioner Larry O'Brien upheld a request for a
replay by the San Antonio Spurs after their 137-132 double-overtime
loss to the Los Angeles Lakers the previous month.
The Spurs and Lakers finished the game in April 1983, with San
Antonio winning 117-114.
The Hawks were caught off guard by Stern's ruling, feeling he
was trying to send a message in light of another scoring mistake
that occurred in Atlanta early last season.
"Come on," Gearon said. "You can see how many time coaches,
assistant coaches and trainers walk up to [the scoring table]
during a game. They're walking up there for a reason. They're
asking questions, whether it's confirming timeout or points or
Team spokesman Arthur Triche said no one on the stat crew had
been replaced, but changes have been made in the way they operate.
Two people run the official book at courtside, while the
four-person computer stat crew is 26 rows above the court in
another press location. The two crews are supposed to check with
each other if any discrepancies come up.
"While it was an honest mistake made on the table, there was a
communication breakdown in not following through the procedures
that are in place," Triche said. "That's why we're in this
The Hawks were leading 112-111 in overtime when O'Neal was
called for a foul. The official scorers said it was the Miami
center's sixth foul, when actually it was only his fifth.
The mistake stemmed from a foul with 3:24 remaining in the
fourth quarter that was called on Udonis Haslem but was mistakenly
credited to O'Neal at the scoring table.
"That's crazy, man! I don't even think I can play because I
fouled out," Atlanta's Josh Smith said. "David Stern is the head
honcho, so if he says we've got to play another 51 seconds that's
what we've got to play. Bottom line."
Stern ruled the Hawks "failed to follow league-mandated scoring
procedures and failed to respond effectively when the members of
the statisticians' crew noticed the mistake," the NBA said in a
Said Haslem: "I'm not the kind of guy who likes to argue or cry
over spilled milk, but we've got a second chance so we'll try to
make the best of it."
While the Heat are having a terrible, going into Friday's game
last in the Eastern Conference with a record that is now 8-27
instead of 8-28, the decision could have a profound impact on
Atlanta's hopes of making the playoffs for the first time since
Losing the win over Miami dropped the Hawks to 15-16, leaving
them with the eighth -- and final -- seed in the East. Imagine if
they lose the replay, then miss the playoffs by one game.
"Bottom line is we're here to try to make the playoffs," said
coach Mike Woodson, whose team faced the Washington Wizards on
Friday night. "You've got to live with it. We'll face those 51
seconds in March."
The NBA requires the official scorers to coordinate foul calls
with the rest of the stat crew during every timeout. That
apparently didn't happen in this case, resulting in the mistake
going unnoticed until after the game, when the Hawks put out
revised boxes showing O'Neal with six fouls.
"Other than filing the protest, I haven't given it any thought
since then. It wasn't until everybody started doing some research
on all of the things that went on behind the scenes," Riley said.
"I don't really know the what the checks and balances are for
fouls and how they're done. I think the league felt we probably
deserved an opportunity to go back and play the last 51 seconds."
Especially because this involved Atlanta, where another
statistical problem occurred just last season.
On Nov. 24, 2006, the official scorer failed to credit Toronto's
T.J. Ford with a basket that would have given the Raptors a late
tie and an opportunity to change the outcome of a 97-93 loss.
"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," the NBA
On the NBA's official Web site, those final 51 seconds have
already been wiped from the books. The Dec. 19 schedule shows 12
games as finals, but the one in Atlanta is still in progress. The
box score and play-by-play are on hold, ending at the time of
Horford's free throws.
Al Horford hit two free throws after O'Neal's foul to put the
Hawks up 114-111. That's where the game will resume.
"It's always something with the Hawks," Atlanta's Tyronn Lue
said. "It's a bad business, man, but we'll get through it."