Replay reviews are supposed to make sure officials get a call right. In the NBA, replay is too often making sure the league gets a call wrong.
Two such situations were on full display in the final minute of the Milwaukee Bucks’ 116-114 loss to the Phoenix Suns Friday night.
What the NBA can do about it is another question, but replays assuring a wrong call are not what replays are supposed to be about.
With 44.2 seconds left of a tie game, Phoenix’s T.J. Warren appeared to knock the ball out of the hands of Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton. Bucks ball. Except replay said otherwise. Replay clearly showed Warren hacking Middleton’s left arm. Warren never really made contact with the ball, so because Middleton’s hand last touched the ball, replay review awarded the ball to the Suns.
Out of bounds calls can’t be reviewed outside of the final two minutes of a game, so if that play happens in the first 46 minutes, the offensive team at least retains the ball. Rightfully so. In the last two minutes, not only does the team with the ball not get the foul called on replay review, it loses possession.
A very similar play came up seconds later, this time with Phoenix rookie Deandre Ayton’s left arm coming down on Giannis Antetokounmpo’s right arm. Replay again confirmed that Antetokounmpo was clearly fouled but touched the ball last. And replay can’t change a non-foul to a foul.
Referees want to get every call right. We know they don’t. That’s why replay review has become a factor in all four of the major professional sports. But only in the NBA does replay make sure a bad call is not only upheld, but often overturned to give a fouling team the ball.
There are no situations in baseball, football or hockey where replay makes a missed call even worse. But that is what they NBA has when a missed foul call also ends up giving the team that got away with the foul possession of the ball.
So what are the NBA’s options? Can the replay review office assess a foul in such a situation? That would probably be the best solution in obvious situations. But then the definition of “obvious” situations probably becomes a point of contention.
These situations have happened plenty of other times. And when they happen in playoff games, they get magnified even worse.
A missed foul is bad enough. A missed foul call and then a replay review that penalizes the team that was fouled makes it even worse.