To hear the Cleveland Cavaliers tell it, the folks in Wisconsin only had to turn their clocks back 59 minutes and 59.8 seconds overnight Saturday. Because the Milwaukee Bucks took care of that first tenth-of-a-second or two for them.
After Brandon Jennings‘ buzzer-beater lifted the Bucks to a 105-102 victory at the BMO Harris Bradley Center – and after Cavs coach Byron Scott got a chance to see a couple of replays – Scott felt the timekeeping in Milwaukee was slow on the trigger. He told that to reporters after the game.
“I don’t want to get fined, so I’m not going to say nothing about the clock starting late on the last shot. But they have to figure out a way to do something about that. The bottom line is that either it doesn’t count or you take it out again. They’ve got to figure out a way.
“Looking at it again in the locker room a copule of times, the shot shouldn’t have counted. The clock started too late.”
The situation: Just 0.7 seconds showed on the clock when Milwaukee inbounded the ball, Mike Dunleavy passing to Jennings near the top of the key. Upon review, the Cavs felt Jennings did too much with the ball, from catch to windup to launch, before the clock began its countdown.
NBA rules compel referees to review all such end-of-quarter plays, but what they’re looking for in those circumstances is whether the ball left Jennings’ hands before time ran out. Scott’s point focused on the front end of the play. As in: You can’t know whether your pants are too long unless you know where you have them hitched on your waist. Or something like that.
There’s a little irony in Jennings being the guy who beat the clock because the slender point guard wasn’t able to beat one three days earlier. The NBA’s cutoff for fourth-year players such as Jennings to receive contract extensions passed Wednesday without a deal for him. Since then, he’s been playing as if possessed, with 21 points and 13 assists in a victory over Boston Friday, followed by 13 and 13 against Cleveland.
Did the Bucks mess up? Nope. They decided that Jennings would have to demonstrate some continued progress as their long-term playmaking option. If he plays with a chip on his shoulder all the way into restricted free agency, Milwaukee will be quick either to sign him or match whatever comes his way. That’s the market at work.
Back to the play in question: The view here at the HTB hideout, for what it’s worth, was that there was no discernible delay. Jennings got his shot off quickly and the ball was in the air for the last three or four ticks of the clock, so even a teensy late-start wouldn’t have invalidated the game-winner at the back end.
Also, the clock is wired into electronic packs that the refs wear at their waists. They’ve got the trigger. This isn’t left to home-cookin’ by the arena stats crew.
It would be nice if replay were used on every close play, front and back, with every possible ruling (such as a missed foul call) in play. It might be interesting to see NBA coaches have red flags to throw, like in the NFL, or for the league to have an “eye in the sky” extra ref at every game, notifying the court crew when something needs to be overturned.
But the league isn’t there yet with replays. Scott might well get fined for, ahem, not saying “nothing.” But the Jennings’ shot from out front to decide the game in Milwaukee Saturday? Clean.