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#pounditTuesday, October 3, 2023

Did officials put too much time on clock before Derrick White’s game-winner?

Al Horford fouling Jimmy Butler

Derrick White produced perhaps the moment of the postseason thus far in Saturday’s Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals. But was White only in that position to begin with because of a generous clock decision by the refs?

The Boston Celtics guard White forced a Game 7 by the slimmest possible margin, downing the Miami Heat with an incredible putback layup as time expired. White’s amazing shot gave the Celtics a 104-103 win (video here).

But the play immediately before White’s game-winner also drew scrutiny. With the Celtics clinging onto a 102-100 lead, Al Horford fouled Heat star Jimmy Butler on a shot attempt. After the initial whistle, the clock stopped at 2.1 seconds. But with a challenge still in his back pocket, Boston coach Joe Mazzulla disputed the foul call. While the challenge was unsuccessful, the referees did get the opportunity to review the game clock and determined that Horford’s foul had actually occurred with 3.0 seconds left on the clock.

Those extra 0.9 seconds ended up being absolutely massive as White got off his ensuing putback attempt with just 0.1 seconds left on the clock.

Here is the full clip (where Horford appears to only lightly touch Butler at 3.0 seconds and not make any actual contact on Butler’s upward shooting motion until 2.8 seconds or so).

Of course, the replay review ended up helping the Heat as well since it was determined that Butler’s feet were behind the three-point line. That gave Butler three free throws instead of two (all of which he made).

White and the Celtics deserved to win the game, especially since Butler and Heat co-star Bam Adebayo were largely no-shows until a frantic late run put Miami in a position to almost steal away the victory. But that clock decision just goes to show how perilously close Boston’s season was to ending before they pulled a rabbit out of their hat and somehow forced a Game 7.


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