About the story

For those of you who turned in after the game ended, an interesting thing happened on the blog after I posted my first version of the story. Let’s just say that a handful of posts on the blog questioned my mental acuity and my fitness to cover the team, in large part because the story did not mention the shot-clock situation that happened with about two minutes left in the game. (I don’t think it’s up anymore, as it has been replaced by the later version.)

In the interest of transparency, and because you might find what we do on our end interesting, I hope I can explain what happened.

Basically, I missed it. Here’s why, and hopefully this comes across as an explanation and not me making excuses:

The first story that I posted has to be filed right as the game ends, or shortly thereafter, before I go to the locker room. It’s called the “running” game story. We write them and post them online immediately to give readers the news as quickly as possible before going to the locker room to get comment. It isn’t meant to be the paper’s final word on a game, but the first edition of the news. Generally speaking, I’ll file a second story, with quotes, which is ideally written with a little more perspective and thought, about 90 minutes after the game ends. That’s called the “write-through,” and it’s the version that goes in the paper (provided the game ends in time) and replaces the originally posted online story.

Given that it has to be written as the game is going on, the running game story is generally not the most insightful account of the game, at least when I write them. A lot of times, running game stories end up being a recitation of plays, but what I try to do (though not always successfully, as we’ve all learned) is provide some sort of picture of why the Hawks won or lost and what that means.

In a game like Wednesday’s, whether the Hawks win or lose isn’t known until the very end. So, Wednesday, I was piecing together a “Hawks win” story and a “Hawks lose” story as the game was finishing. In addition, I was trying to follow the action and take notes. And, the kicker, in this instance, was that I was seated a good distance away from the court with no television nearby for replays.

(This is an aside. Please skip if you’re not much for asides.) I don’t know if you’d call it an inefficiency or ironic, but, at least as I’ve found writing a game story on deadline, I often don’t get a complete picture of what is happening at the end of a close game – which is generally the most important part – because I’m trying to write, take notes and observe all at the same time. I think the best example of this that I can give you is a Tampa Bay-Indianapolis Monday night game I covered in 2003.

It started out perfectly for a writer trying to make deadline, as the Buccaneers took leads of 21-0, 28-7 and 35-14, and I started writing by halftime about how the game re-asserted Tampa Bay as the best defense in the NFL, having shut down mighty Indianapolis in Tony Dungy’s return to his former home.

However, Indianapolis chipped away and finally scored 21 points in the last four minutes to force overtime, where the Colts won on a field goal. As you can imagine, all my material about Tampa’s mighty defense didn’t make the final version.

I don’t want to say I have no idea what happened, but I can tell you I didn’t see much of this comeback, because I was having to write, re-write and re-write some more. I am quite sure my story did very little to capture the essence of the game.

(End of aside)

So, anyway, Wednesday, I flat-out missed what happened with the shot clock. When 6the Hawks called timeout and Mike Woodson argued the call, I was probably using that time to write. As I’d mentioned, there was no television near me so I could follow what was being highlighted on the broadcast and, to make matters worse, I wasn’t sitting next to any other writers who might have clued me in, either. The first I realized what had happened was in the post-game interviews. I am grateful for a lot of people helping me understand what happened.

I imagine if you’ve been to a game, you might have experienced something similar, where you come home, or listen to the radio in the car, and everyone who watched on TV is talking about, “Can you believe what happened?” and you have no idea what they’re talking about because you didn’t have all the replays of the botched play or blown call at your disposal from your seat in the stadium.

If you haven’t, maybe you should look into covering an NBA team. (ha ha)

So, that’s it. I sincerely hope this doesn’t sound like me asking for your sympathy, because that is not my intent, as I don’t warrant sympathy. I get to do something I enjoy (most days) for a living, a true blessing. And I also hope I don’t sound like I’m making excuses, because I don’t think I am. I’m trying to explain what happened.

I’m going to say a better deadline writer – someone who can more efficiently do the multi-tasking required for this particular task of our job – would have caught the malfunction. Hopefully the next time, I will.

Hope all this makes sense.

226 comments Add your comment

darrell starks

December 31st, 2009
9:50 am

REFS GOT PAID WAY 2 GO LEAGUE OFFICIAL.
GO HAWKS!!!!!!!!

darrell starks

December 31st, 2009
9:51 am

HAWKS TOOK 15 FREE THROWS CAVS 38 WOW!!!!!!
GO HAWKS!!!!!!!!!

Benjamin

December 31st, 2009
9:53 am

If I were a Cavs fan, I’d probably be 50/50 myself, Lowen. You make very good points in your post.

I don’t know if you were around in the Browns/Broncos days of the 80s, but I actually suffered right there with you if you were. (I was a HUGE Browns fan when I was little, because of Kosar, Slaughter, Langhorne, etc.) Earnest Byner’s fumble was one of the most distressing moments of my childhood. lol

I know the city of Cleveland needs LBJ to return in terms of financial need. Sad as it is to say, he’s a lot of your local economy right now, and being in the business world, I can understand how valuable he is to you guys. I’d rather him stay there than go off to NYC to form a super-duo with Wade, Bosh, or some other player, to say the least….

darrell starks

December 31st, 2009
9:56 am

I WONDER IF TIM DONAGHY NO ANY OF THE REFS ESPECIALLY THE 1 WITH HIS HAIR SLICK BACK.
GO HAWKS!!!!!!!!

lacsho

December 31st, 2009
9:58 am

First and foremost I want to say I am very proud of this team. They played on helluva game last night. As me and my wife watched the game, it was painfully obvious the NBA had an agenda for Lebron’s b-day. It was utterly disgusting watching NBA TV, and listening to the commentator’s analysts of the game. It’s clear they didn’t watch the game, and they definitely didn’t have a clue. Thank you once again NBA for confirming all our so -called conspiracy theories.

Secondly, I think Woodson coached an excellent game, and the Collins substitution was big. Finally, we have Woody making good in game adjustments.

Lastly, the reporting on this game from all of the media sources was flat out horrible. If the shoe was on the other foot, the NBA and the media’s reporting would have been vastly different. As a long time Hawks fan, I’ve witnessed this for years. Wow, I’m on board to buy Tim Donaghy’s book; his statements no longer seem farfetched.

Happy New Years !!!!!

GeeMack

December 31st, 2009
10:00 am

To all my Hawks fans

We can blame the officals, Lebrons ego, Shaq etc….the bottom line is we lost a game in which we had a 17 point advantage. We had a nice 7 point lead in the 4th that we could not hold. This happened in Chicago as well. This loss was on the Hawks. We need to develope a killer instinct.

J.J.M.

December 31st, 2009
10:00 am

hmmm lets see if first take talks about it

Lowenbrau

December 31st, 2009
10:00 am

Benjamin,

Yeah, I experienced The Drive and The Fumble. I was 9 when The Drive happened…..that still remains the worst of all the Cleveland disappointments for me. The Fumble and last year’s Cavs are right behind it. Then you have Jose Mesa in Game 7 against the Marlins, Jordan’s “Shot” in ‘89, and on and on and on. I guess Atlanta is a pretty tortured sports city too, since besides the ‘95 Braves (which beat us….lol) I can’t recall a major title there in the last 30 or so years.

Well if the Cavs choke this year, I’ll be rooting for Atlanta over Boston or Orlando. I hate those two teams.

J.J.M.

December 31st, 2009
10:01 am

we lost a 17 point lead because the game was slowed down by cavs shooting more free throws then the hawks.

Lowenbrau

December 31st, 2009
10:02 am

As far as LeBron goes, the economics of the game are in Cleveland’s favor. They can offer him more money and more years in his contract. I don’t think the “big market” lure of New York really carries that much weight anymore. I mean, the guy is already the biggest star in the league playing in Cleveland. I’m not sure how much bigger he can get. Plus, the Knicks are garbage and he’d have to start all over with them. I figure if he goes anywhere it’d be to Miami to play with his buddy D-Wade.

willgolf4food

December 31st, 2009
10:04 am

17 point lead…Control of the game…Cavs should not have won this one, but the Hawks lost it more than the Cavs won. Can’t blame the refs on this lost after blowing 17 point lead…Cavs turn it up on the Hawks and they could not respond. After most games, we can always point to Refs blowing calls when our team loses…Overall it was a good NBA game…

Lowenbrau

December 31st, 2009
10:06 am

JJM: “we lost a 17 point lead because the game was slowed down by cavs shooting more free throws then the hawks.”

The Hawks offense became predictable down the stretch. When games get tighter, they tend to rely on a lot of one-on-one play — with Joe Johnson in particular. When you play that way against a Cleveland team that turns up its defense late in games, the Hawks become much easier to defend. It happened two nights in a row.

J.J.M.

December 31st, 2009
10:10 am

im just sayong from what i saw the hawks clearly kept trying to drive the ball but didnt get no foul calls….so as for coach woodson he probably thought well “thats not working lets go with the iso joe”

octo

December 31st, 2009
10:17 am

It is clear to me with all these comments, the Hawks were screwed and CLE is worried. Lots of rightful venom on the Hawks side, lots of BS from the real whiners in CLE.

JeJe

December 31st, 2009
10:18 am

FIRE MIKE WOODSON

ClevelandBob

December 31st, 2009
10:18 am

You Atlanta fans are a joke. How about you run out to your nearest store and get some cheese and crackers to go along with your WHINE!! You got your but kicked two nights in a row by a better team. Just like you got your but kicked in the playoffs last year. Get a better coach and better players and try again next year.

JeJe

December 31st, 2009
10:19 am

These next 3 games are a must-win. New York, Miami, and NJ

JeJe

December 31st, 2009
10:20 am

Cavs have a joke schedule ahead of them for January

octo

December 31st, 2009
10:25 am

Atl is no sports capital, although the BRaves won it all thanks to the mistake by the lake, have you ever won anything?

GeeMack

December 31st, 2009
10:31 am

JJM

The Cavs shot more FT because they took the ball to the hole. While the hawks settled for jumper just like the night before. Thats not officiating thats effort, the Cavs had more than us both nights.

ClevelandBob

December 31st, 2009
10:33 am

Come on Atlanta fans. Next time Lebron is in your house cheer MVP,MVP,MVP,MVP,MVP!! Maybe he will take pity on you losers and throw his headband into the stands after kicking your butt!

Big Mone

December 31st, 2009
10:35 am

Good break down of the behind the scenes to your articles Ken. We appreciate your candor and the fact that your final version did set the record straight. I think a lot of fans were steaming after a tough loss where there was at least one major error and the anger seemed to channeled towards you. Keep working hard Ken. Your efforts are appreciated.

Volman

December 31st, 2009
10:35 am

It’s funny to see any “Cleveland Fans” on here trying to justify anything from last night. Every NBA fan knows that the game was HANDED TO Cleveland last night. The foul calls, the no-calls for Cleveland, the shot clock..Everything.

That was a joke last night.

Volman

December 31st, 2009
10:37 am

Geemack, you’re an idiot. The Hawks drove to the lane on MANY possessions in the 4th quarter and got no-calls. You seriously don’t know what you’re talking about, dolt. Quit trying to justify the preferential treatment by the referees last night. I guess IGNORANCE is bliss.

Lowenbrau

December 31st, 2009
10:41 am

Volman,

You’re right, the Cavs did have it handed to them…..by the Hawks.

ClevelandBob

December 31st, 2009
10:44 am

When you have a team that can go 9 minutes without scoring a basket on the first night, blows a 17 point lead on the second night, I’d be pretty angry also. How do you guys even watch these losers?

Time

December 31st, 2009
10:44 am

ClevelandBob – you are a joke. The Cavs rival the Celtics for on court whining and just like the Celtics it pays dividends for them.

Anyone who actually watched the game last night, biased or not, has to come away thinking the fix was in. If it was just one thing, say just the massive difference in FT attempts, then I’d tend to not agree with with a “fix” theory. Now combine that with the fact that the Hawks were screwed with the shot clock and the fact that the refs were more than willing to go back and “fix” the clock for LeBron after the Smith goaltend at the end of the 3rd but turned a deaf ear to Woodson saying they didn’t know what he was talking about.

And all you Cavs fans running your mouths in here about Atlanta fans. I really can’t wait to see you guys cry Cleveland into a Katrina level flood when LeBron leaves for NY. Stern and his cronies will ensure that will happen. Just watch.

J.J.M.

December 31st, 2009
10:45 am

im guessing you didnt read what I said. Hakws drove the ball and had no CHOICE but to shhot jumpers. whats the point of driving the ball if the reds wont call fouls. Hawks basically drove the ball for no reason. anyways good luck the rest of the year.

Happy New Years everybody

J.J.M.

December 31st, 2009
10:45 am

RLP

December 31st, 2009
10:50 am

I was out of town and have not yet had an opportunity to see the tape of the game so I cannot comment on the refs or the shot clock. But from my perspective a regular season game played at a playoff level against one of the elite teams can have either a positive or negative effect on the psyche of the Hawks. Some of us have been claiming that the team is on the cusp of becoming one of those elite teams. It is now tine to find out where this team really stands based on their response to this adversity.

I agree with those who call Josh a whiner. But I also love his game BECAUSE any who watches how he plays can feel his passion for the game and his team. Now is the time for this team to stand up and show that they are capable of responding in a positive manner.

As far as the Cavs and their fans I think we should all remember how classless that team was when they lost to the Magic in last years playoffs. Some of their fans have been classy in their comments and some have not. The same can be said for our fans. Let’s try to show them how ATL fans respond – with class and dignity. To Cav fans your team was better last night.

Big Mone

December 31st, 2009
10:50 am

GeeMack

December 31st, 2009
10:31 am

JJM

The Cavs shot more FT because they took the ball to the hole. While the hawks settled for jumper just like the night before. Thats not officiating thats effort, the Cavs had more than us both nights.

===============================

GeeMack, I’m not sure if you watched the game but Atlanta took but Atlanta took 31 shots in the paint (9 in 4th alone) and Cleveland took 33 shoots in the paint (only 6 in 4th) so your theory about Cleveland driving so much more than Atlanta doesn’t hold water. Cleveland took only two more shots in the paint than Atlanta overall and in the decisive 4th quarter where Atlanta took more shots in the paint by a 3 shot margin Cleveland shot 8 more free throws than Atlanta (11-3 edge and one of Atlanta’s 3 was for a defensive 3-second call against Cleveland). So it doesn’t seem to me that Atlanta was settling for jumpers, but they were aggressively driving to the bucket but the refs did not see fit to make any calls. Of course on the other end, Cleveland was less aggressive and settled for more jump shots but somehow managed to shoot 8 more free throws than Atlanta. Go figure.

ken

December 31st, 2009
10:52 am

Bottom line. The NBA is a star driven league and it will continue to be that way because this is what the fans pay to see. Anyone who does not accept this truth will become fustrated to no end by NBA games. There are certain teams and certain players the league gives preferential treatment too because they bring in the big dollars and that’s the bottom line. At this point, the Hawks are not one of these teams and J Johnson is not one of those players. I have known this for many years which is why I don’t pay my hard earned money to go to NBA games. Its like the steroid scandal in baseball, everyone knew the players were using but it was kept inhouse. This is the key reason certain teams keep winning championships and others don’t. Its all about the players and teams that bring in the most money for the league. The NBA is a business first whether you want to believe it or not.

Astro Joe

December 31st, 2009
11:04 am

David Stern may choose to handle this differently given the Donaghy stories. Let’s face it, there is an “integrity cloud” that hangs over this year’s NBA season. The shot clock issue coupled with the free throw disparity may lead Stern to handle this differently. If not, the Hawks are still learning and progressing. We are no better than the 4th best team in our conference and that will be true with or without 1-2
more wins.

On a separate note, I wonder when (or if) the Hawks will begin to view the Cavs like they do the Heat and Celtics. I was disappointed that we did not seem to have that “anger” that we show when facing those other teams. It feels like we wanted to “test ourselves” against the Cavs but we want to beat the ish out of the Celtics and Heat. Maybe last night’s game will get us closer to having anger management issues with the Cavs.

CJA

December 31st, 2009
11:07 am

Hawk fans, you are starting to sound like Wizard fans. This is mental now.If you have any question why you lost this game tonight, or any of the last 8 you have dropped to Cleveland, you can look directly at the fourth quarter. This hawks team can not close out games. When the pressure is on, this team abandons it’s offense and reverts into 5 guys playing one on one. The ball stays on the same side of the court and it actually becomes easier to guard them. In the last 6 losses to Cleveland, Atlanta has scored over 20 point one time, that was garbage time in a blowout. 4 quarter in Cleveland is winning time, in Atlanta, it’s “oh sh*t here we go again time.” Winners find ways to pull out games even when they are not playing well. Losers try to find someone to blame when they lose. With that being said, the shot clock was not reset. I seen it happen at least three other times this season. Twice the refs didn’t catch it until the coaches/players pointed it out. The league will review it and I’m sure they will rule that Smith was stripped of the ball before a shot clock violation would have been called. As to your other grevence, in 6 of the last 8 games that the Hawks lost to Cleveland they when to the free throw line more than the Cavs did. This included a 19 to 26 disperity on Tuesday night, which if my memory serves me right was still a loss to Cleveland. In last nights game I think one play really illistrates why the Hawks WILL not beat Cleveland. Late in the fourth quarter of the game. Josh Smith gets the ball near the base line, He is wide open, the Cavs are out of position. Instead of driving the base line hard he settles for jump shot that everbody in Cleveland was hoping he would take and missed. In the NBA game, in the fourth quarter the calls always go to team that is pushing the action and no Atlanta, you who had a 14 point lead, will not get bailed out by the officials when you settle for jumps shots.

khao$

December 31st, 2009
11:09 am

Anybody who thinks Donaghy was lying is in denial like MLB fans were about Canseco. Call me a conspiricy theorist or whatever; I’ve seen crap like this go on in the NBA since Jordan was in the league…hence the Jordan rules. There is absolutely no accountability amongst the refs. Is it a hard job? Sure. That said fouls are fouls regardless of Mike Wilks commits them or Lebron James. Cleveland fans can yell “whiners” all they want. Doesn’t faze me a bit. I know what my eyes saw. If the Hawks lost because they took bad shots (ala the Orlando game) I can admit that. If they Hawks lost because they underestimated an opponent (see the Knicks loss) I can admit that. If the Hawks loss because a team was better than them that night (see the Denver loss), I can admit that. If the Hawks loss because the other team made plays at the end (the first Cleveland loss) I’ll grant you that. I’ll even grant that our very own Josh Smith whines on every call (even though he’s guilty most of the time). However, when we go to the paint 30 plus times, the refs turn the other way, blow the whistle if someone so much as breathes on Lebron James, and gives us a short clock WHILE WE HAVE THE LEAGUE AND THE GAME IS IN BALANCE, nah, I can’t go with that.

And for those who want to argue “the Hawks blew a 17 point lead”, get out of here. This is the NBA. Great teams make runs. The Hawks made a run to build the lead. The Cavs made a run to reduce the lead. If this were the Clippers, I’d go with that argument. The problem comes into play when both teams are playing well, all things equal, and the refs start giving calls to one team. That’s what happened last night. If I weren’t a Hawks fan, I’d say the same thing. The refs impacted the game and anybody saying something otherwise is in denial.

keith

December 31st, 2009
11:13 am

PLEASE MR SUND……TRADE MARVIN WILLIAMS NOW……..PLEASE?
At this stage of his professional basketball career, i can not quantify why he is a starter. Points, rebounds, blocked shots, defense, and intangibles, he gives us nothing! I will say that he shoots a pretty
high precentage from the free throw line, however, he hardly gets to the line enough to make a
difference. We cannot quantify his 7 milllion dollar salary. WE ARE IN A RECESSION.
I refuse to pay for NBA league pass if i must watch a number 2 pick, MARVIN WILLIAMS, not get it.

FRESH

December 31st, 2009
11:13 am

KEN, YOU’RE GOOD MAN…EVERYONE WAS JUST HEATED AFTER LAST NIGHTS “DEBACLE” AND YOU JUST GOT CAUGHT IN THE CROSS-FIRE.

CHRIS SHERIDAN OF ESPN POSTED A STORY ABOUT LAST NIGHT’S ISSUE:
http://espn.go.com/nba/dailydime/_/page/dime-091230/daily-dime

I GOTTA ADMIT, THE NBA KNOWS HOW TO CREATE CONTROVERSY. I CAN REALLY SINCE A HAWKS-CAVS RIVILRY COMING TO A COURT NEAR YOU SOON!!!

Lowenbrau

December 31st, 2009
11:17 am

Excellent post, CJA. Your words will get through to the few Hawks fans on this board who are being objective. The homers won’t see it because they won’t allow themselves to see it.

If the Hawks would have called a time out there, or even just let the shot clock run down, play would have been stopped and the refs could have been alerted to the error. Then the Hawks would’ve gotten the ball out on the side, and their timeout (if taken) would’ve likely been given back to them.

The truth is that the Hawks had plenty of opportunites to win before and after the shot clock issue. An unusual and out of the ordinary mistake? Yes. But not a game-clincher. Mike Bibby missed an open 3, Josh Smith missed open shots, Joe Johnson airballed a floater from 3 feet away…..like I said, plenty of opportunities for them, but they couldn’t execute.

FRESH

December 31st, 2009
11:20 am

WOW!!!!!

READ THIS:

There is an NBA procedure for instances such as this. A pool reporter is permitted to question the lead referee about a rule interpretation, and the referee is obligated to answer so long as it does not involve a judgment call, and the pool reporter is obligated to share the referee’s answer with all other media.

Pretty simple, no?

Well, lead referee Kenny Mauer would have none of it, relaying two words — “no comment” — when a Cavs public relations official informed him a pool reporter wished to question him about the play in question.

Mauer could have explained that he was acting within the rules as they are written, and that there is no recourse for going to a video review on a malfunction such as this.

“I think we should have won this game, and I think they know that, too,” Bibby said. “I was bringing the ball up, and that’s why I started to go because the clock was down. I didn’t know, it was the middle of the game, I thought it was kind of quick. You look at the shot clock, you see the shot clock down, and you play.”

Said Smith: “Malfunction? I thought one official was supposed to check the clock.”

This is the second time this month that a lead referee has refused to explain a critical rule interpretation — even though the league office has encouraged them (but not mandated them) to do so. A league spokesman said Mauer was within his rights to decline comment, and so all we have for an explanation this morning is the video of the play, the video of Woodson’s ire and the pending protest (which seems almost certain to be turned down).

bigdave

December 31st, 2009
11:21 am

Stro Joe…

i think they already have a little hate for the cavs… it started last year w/ all the talking in the closing minutes of the game 4 cav win. they kept it up tues night, and yesterday the Hawks came to play and you could tell. that game last night reminded me of a Bos/Atl home playoff game. its a shame though, b/c the cavs seem to have police protection. it will take that effort to beat the cavs. though we clearly can, you have to know what you’re up against.

FRESH

December 31st, 2009
11:22 am

Lowenbrau,

IT WAS CLEARLY A FACTOR!!!!! AGAIN READ BIBBY’S RESPONSE:

“I think we should have won this game, and I think they know that, too,” Bibby said. “I was bringing the ball up, and that’s why I started to go because the clock was down. I didn’t know, it was the middle of the game, I thought it was kind of quick. You look at the shot clock, you see the shot clock down, and you play.”

FRESH

December 31st, 2009
11:28 am

THE ENTIRE ARTICLE:

1. Hawks Livid After Shot-Clock Malfunction
By Chris Sheridan
ESPN.com
CLEVELAND — Sure was a happy birthday for LeBron James, eh, what with the 48 points and all?

And Anderson Varejao couldn’t have picked a better time to turn into a latter-day Oscar Schmidt, wouldn’t ya say?

Yep, those were the things the Cleveland Cavaliers, an assortment of rap stars and other major moguls were undoubtedly discussing over drinks in the wee hours of this morning as they attended James’ birthday party at a local nightspot. (Note of the night: All invitees were required to wear all black clothing.)

But what about the other side of the story?

What about all those Atlanta Hawks fans? They sure would like an explanation as to why their team was the victim of an egregious shot-clock malfunction that prompted coach Mike Woodson to announce that the Hawks would file an official protest with the league office over their 106-101 loss to Cleveland on Wednesday night.

Employing due diligence — one of commissioner David Stern’s favorite phrases, along with that absurdity he keeps repeating: “referee transparency” — I went to the referees’ locker room acting as a pool reporter, something I have done at least a half-dozen times in my career, to ask what the rule interpretation was on that particular play.

To review: Atlanta was ahead 99-98 when the Cavs missed a shot in the lane with about 16 seconds remaining on the shot clock. But the shot clock did not reset, and by the time point guard Mike Bibby dribbled upcourt and looked at the clock, it was ticking close to zero. Bibby passed the ball to Josh Smith in the lane, he had it stolen by LeBron James, and the Cavs came downcourt and scored for a 100-99 lead.

Woodson was apoplectic, arguing his case vociferously to the referees while also screaming angrily at the 24-second clock operator. But to no avail.

Atlanta tied the game with 41.5 seconds left when James goaltended a shot by Joe Johnson, but Varejao hit the first 3-pointer of his career with 17.2 seconds left, as the shot clock expired, to make it 104-101 (the shot was originally called a 2, but it was changed to a 3 during the ensuing timeout, which made Woodson even more livid since he appeared to be diagramming a 2-point play in the huddle to go for the tie).

Instead, Bibby had to try for the tie on a corner 3-pointer. He missed, the Cavs locked it up with two free throws, and the Hawks angrily stormed off the court — Woodson twice had to be turned back by his assistants and redirected toward the locker room — before cooling down enough to utter the following:

“I’m not going to comment on it at this time. We’re just going to file a protest, without a doubt let the league review it at the two-minute mark, and then see what they think.”

Did he see that as a game-changer?

“Well, we’ve got a one-point lead and with the ball going our way, and we’re rushing to get a shot because the clock is not in our favor? You figure it out.”

There is an NBA procedure for instances such as this. A pool reporter is permitted to question the lead referee about a rule interpretation, and the referee is obligated to answer so long as it does not involve a judgment call, and the pool reporter is obligated to share the referee’s answer with all other media.

Pretty simple, no?

Well, lead referee Kenny Mauer would have none of it, relaying two words — “no comment” — when a Cavs public relations official informed him a pool reporter wished to question him about the play in question.

Mauer could have explained that he was acting within the rules as they are written, and that there is no recourse for going to a video review on a malfunction such as this.

“I think we should have won this game, and I think they know that, too,” Bibby said. “I was bringing the ball up, and that’s why I started to go because the clock was down. I didn’t know, it was the middle of the game, I thought it was kind of quick. You look at the shot clock, you see the shot clock down, and you play.”

Said Smith: “Malfunction? I thought one official was supposed to check the clock.”

This is the second time this month that a lead referee has refused to explain a critical rule interpretation — even though the league office has encouraged them (but not mandated them) to do so. A league spokesman said Mauer was within his rights to decline comment, and so all we have for an explanation this morning is the video of the play, the video of Woodson’s ire and the pending protest (which seems almost certain to be turned down).

For fans of Atlanta, it doesn’t matter that the Hawks eclipsed 100 points for the first time in their last 16 games against Cleveland. It doesn’t matter that Atlanta’s string of being held below 85 points by Cleveland ended at five in a row. It doesn’t matter that Joe Johnson was superb, scoring 35 points on 15-for-25 shooting. It doesn’t matter that Jason Collins, of all people, actually had a three-possession sequence in which he took Shaquille O’Neal completely out of his game.

What matters is the L — and the fact that the Hawks didn’t have a fair chance to come away with a W in what they themselves described as a two-day litmus test of their strength in playing the Cavs on back-to-back nights.

“It was a great game. If you’re a fan or you were watching on TV, it was great. Both teams fought and didn’t want to give an inch, and it’s unfortunate it had to come down this way, but as an organization we have to do what’s right for our organization and our basketball team,” Woodson said. “It’s a shame it had to come down to that, and we’ll figure it out when the league reviews it.”

Have fun swallowing that along with your morning coffee, Hawks fans, while also remembering this: All those black-clad folks at LBJ’s birthday bash were feeling such good vibes, too, at your team’s expense. And just a guess (our invitation was apparently lost in the mail), but if the words “conspiracy theory” were uttered, the James Gang all had a big ole belly laugh over it.

Chris Sheridan covers the NBA for ESPN Insider.

SMDH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Lowenbrau

December 31st, 2009
11:29 am

Fresh,

Of course that’s what Bibby’s going to say. He could either be telling the truth or he could be saying the right thing to support his coach’s protest. Who knows. But a heady, experienced player like Bibby should have recognized the error.

And I didn’t say it wasn’t a factor…..I just don’t think it decided the game. Like I said…..the Hawks had many opportunities, before and after this “error”.

terrell barron

December 31st, 2009
11:30 am

We should have a game #83 this year. Tonights game should be made up. Did’nt we have one of those with Miami a couple of years ago?

rusty

December 31st, 2009
11:41 am

we just need to get rid of woody & iso joe johnson

Justin

December 31st, 2009
11:41 am

Ken,
Thanks for the explanation. It was more than I needed but I understand that otherrs don’t give you as much of the benefit of the doubt and might think you waffled after the game based upon their comments. I give you a mulligan on this one, but agree with others on the blog that your blog posts can be more opinionated than your game reports. People want to know what you thought about the free throw disparity among other things.
The game was well-played by the Hawks, a test of their mettle on the road after the train wreck that was the 4th quarterr of Tuesday night’s game. The comments about the Hawks needing to diversify their offense so as not to be predictable in crunch time are valid. That doesn’t unermine the fact that the Hawks had one of the best offensive nights of the season for a Cavs opponent. The shot clock violation didn’t decide the game, but it came at such a crucial point that it definitely did have an effect and the protest should receive real consideration.
For the Hawks players and staff, hopefully they will just be more motivated by this game instead of sulking and letting the Knicks show them up at home again.

rusty

December 31st, 2009
11:42 am

sick of them both, its not the right way to play basketball

Benjamin

December 31st, 2009
11:42 am

Just to be honest, I wouldn’t be that surprised if the league at least took a hard review of this game. Atlanta’s biggest mistake in all of it was that they lost focus after the play happened, but to be fair, I’m not sure a lot of teams wouldn’t have done the same.

Regardless, got to give it to Cleveland, as I said earlier. They saw what happened and took it home for a win. At least for the time being, it registers as an L on our stat sheet, with three games to go between now and our Boston-Orlando-Boston matchup (two of them on the road). We need to take care of business against the teams playing the meat in the sandwich of that schedule and put this stuff behind us….

Big Mone

December 31st, 2009
11:43 am

Lowenbrau,
Whether or not there were opportunities for the Hawks to win this game before or after the error is moot. What is relevant (at least according to the precedent set the league when granting Miami’s protest against Atlanta) is if the Hawks were placed at a “competitive disadvantage” (Stern’s wording) by an “grossly negligent” error on the part of the Cleveland Cavaliers timekeeper and when notified of the error they failed to remedy the situation. Whether or not the Hawks blew other chances is irrelevant.

FRESH

December 31st, 2009
11:50 am

HOLDUP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

THIS IS GETTING TOO GOOD!!!!!!!!

SOMEBODY DO A QUICK SEARCH FAST!!!!!!!!!

SOMEBODY TELL ME IM TRIPPIN…

SOMEBODY TELL ME THAT THE LEAD OFFICIAL OF LAST NIGHT’S GAME “KENNY MAURER” IS NOT A CONVICTED FELON!?!?

MAN THIS IS CRAZY!!