DALLAS – The Cavaliers had a puncher’s chance to end their record losing streak Monday night in Dallas, but it didn’t land. Just as an apparent blow from Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki didn’t connect with Cleveland guard Ramon Sessions late in the fourth quarter.
[UPDATE: NBA spokesman Tim Frank said Tuesday that the league reviewed the Nowitzki play in question and ruled it wasn't a punch.]
The problem, at least from the Cleveland side, is that neither of the three referees caught Nowitzki in the alleged act. With the Cavs trying to mount a late comeback, Sessions drove into Nowitzki’s body, apparently irritating the 7-foot All-Star. Replays showed Nowitzki reacting with an awkward punching motion and closed fist.
The punch didn’t land, but that didn’t stop the Cleveland coaching staff from getting on the officials. Nowitzki was called for a foul with the Mavs up 97-87 with 2:35 left. Sessions hit both free throws to cut the lead to eight.
Had the officials called Nowitzki for throwing a punch, he would have been ejected, two technical free throws would have been shot and Cleveland would have kept the ball. That potentially could have cut into the lead even more. The play wasn’t reviewed.
“You saw it, looked like a punch to me,” Sessions told NBA.com. “I never had any history with Dirk, but it was a punch. I don’t know what it was about, but it was a punch.”
Sessions said he didn’t see it coming.
“Real surprised after I saw the replay,” he said. “If I would have stayed there, he would have hit me. You can’t see it all, but I saw it on the replay. It’s behind us now, but it was a punch. It is what it is.”
The Cavs would end up losing their record-setting 25th in a row, 99-96. Nowitzki brushed aside the incident when asked.
“A punch? No, it was nothing,” Nowitzki said after Dallas’ ninth straight win.
Well, he’s not about to ask for a suspension.