Is a Foul Always a Foul?

Box Score | Highlights (if you have not watched the ending yet, make sure you do right now)

Before I get to the controversial finish to the Nuggets/Warriors game I have a little message for Altitude.  Stop freaking showing the final score of the Nuggets’ game on the bottom of the screen during the replay.  If I wanted to know the final score, I would look it up.  I doubt too many people watch the game already knowing the outcome or hoping to see the final score before the game ends.  Thanks for ruining a crazy finish for me and likely other Nuggets fans as well.

Now, was J.R. Smith fouled on the Nuggets final possession of the game?  Yes he certainly was.  Was he fouled hard?  No he was not.  Did the contact significantly impact his ability to make the shot?  It certainly did.  Would I be going crazy if the officials made that call against Denver instead of for them?  Absolutely.  Ultimately would I be more angry at the player for committing the foul than the ref for calling it.  You betcha.

Sadly, my true reaction to the call was robbed by Altitude’s inability to suppress the final score from their ticker so I did not get to observe the play unfettered by the knowledge of what I was about to see.  Nevertheless, when I saw the play I was surprised the foul was called.  Monta Ellis clearly bumped J.R. and with that contact he robbed J.R. of any opportunity to make the game winning shot.

So is a foul always a foul or should the referees swallow the whistle in the closing seconds, especially on 40 foot heaves?  It looks really bad to have a player bailed out like J.R. was tonight, but on the other hand, can you honestly look the other way and allow a defender to eliminate any chance of their opponent making a game winning shot with even just a little contact?   I do not think there can be a hard and fast rule, referees can only use their best judgement, but I sure have seen a lot more contact go uncalled late in games than what Ellis did to J.R.

As I mentioned above, if Warrior fans should be upset at anyone it is Ellis.  He was not in a position to challenge the shot and should have made every effort possible to avoid touching J.R.

Whether you agree with the call or not if there was a team that needed a break, it was the Denver Nuggets.  By the end of the game tonight four of their top eight players were out with injuries as Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups and Chris Andersen did not suit up and to add injury to injury Ty Lawson rolled his left ankle with 4:16 remaining in the game.  Plus Nene rolled an ankle early in the fourth, but he was able to return and Kenyon had a frightening fall in the last game against Philly.  If I were a Nuggets player right now I would purposely avoid any potentially dangerous situations.  Get a rascal scooter to ride over ice, have the wife wrestle with the kids and definitely no

The interesting thing to me is this is the third time in his career J.R. Smith has been at the line with little to no time left on the clock preparing to shoot three free throws.  Last season on January 8, 2009 he was at the line with five seconds left and Denver down three to Detroit and he only made two of three.  During the 2007-08 season J.R. was in the position to tie the game with three free throws against Indiana and he missed the third one.  Granted tonight Denver only needed him to make two to take the lead, which reduced the pressure, but he still made the first two.

Since J.R. was able to make the first two, it gave Denver the option to miss the third and force the Warriors to call a timeout.  If J.R. needed to make the third to give Denver the lead, the Warriors could have called a timeout and would have had 0.4 seconds to hit a game winning shot of their own.

We also saw what a difference 0.2 of a second makes.  In Chicago earlier this season Chauncey purposely missed his second free throw with Denver up one and 0.6 seconds left.  As the NBA rulebook states, it takes 0.3 seconds to catch a rebound and call timeout.  That was almost enough time for Brad Miller to throw in an incredible game winning shot, but with 0.4 seconds left tonight Chauncey knew there was no way there could be anymore than 0.1 seconds left if J.R. missed his third free throw.  He missed it, the officials correctly put 0.1 seconds on the clock and Golden State had no chance to win.

The Nuggets were not very good on defense, but players like Joey Graham and Malik Allen, yes Malik Allen who I lambasted after the Sixers game, played good enough to help Denver be in position to win even though they were missing four key performers over the final four minutes.  Denver even managed to come back from a five point deficit with under two minutes to play.

Because of that, I am willing to put this in the good win category, even if they needed an assist from the officials.

Featured Blogs: Warriors World | Golden State of Mind

By the way, did Monta Ellis not take about five steps trying to catch the ball just before he made his shot to put the Warriors up one with 15.2 seconds left?  Maybe the final call on Ellis was a make up call, but lets not get into that right now.

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