The Cleveland Cavaliers were in the driver’s seat tonight. With the game looking all but won with one quarter to play, everyone was expecting fourth quarter formalities and junk time to follow as the Cavs took a commanding 26-point lead into the final period. What transpired after that was nothing short of absolutely shocking, mind boggling, and outrageous all wrapped into one.
The defending champions let their guard down, and allowed the Atlanta Hawks to come roaring back with the home crowd momentum seemingly sucking in baskets in front of the Cavs’ bench. It was an ugly display for the Wine and Gold, who simply and inexplicably had a fourth quarter meltdown.
There is no question that the Cavs fell apart down the stretch, allowing the Hawks to get back into the contest and score a crazy 44 points in the final period, but despite the Cavs’ struggles, the outcome of the game may have come down to blatantly poor officiating.
Even despite the comeback, it looked as though the Cavs were going to hold on, before numerous terrible calls plagued the world champs late in the fourth and throughout overtime.
With the game on the line and the Hawks playing the foul game, Kyrie Irving received the ball trapped in the corner. Teammate LeBron James called multiple timeouts that were ignored, before Irving was called for a jump ball with Hawks star Paul Millsap. That jump ball turned into a scrabble, eventually leading to a bucket from Millsap which forced overtime.
Not only did the refs ignore James’ plea, they also missed the two Hawks players standing clearly out of bounds when trapping Irving with their hands on the ball trying to tie him up.
Both Hawks defenders were out of bounds on the final jump ball. pic.twitter.com/rLBCnks0ys
— SB Nation NBA 🏀 (@SBNationNBA) April 9, 2017
It was a call that cost the Cavs the game, as Irving would have made it a two possession game with only seconds left and the Hawks being without timeouts. Instead, the Cavs now go away still fighting for the number one seed in the Eastern Conference.
When asked about the play after the game, Irving asked how much the fine was for talking about the refs.
Alex Sabri ·
"How much is the fine for talking about the refs?"
Kyrie wanted clarity before deciding whether to discuss key calls that hurt the @cavs. pic.twitter.com/grwEqCVDDA
— FOX Sports Ohio (@FOXSportsOH) April 9, 2017
The Cavs’ collapse was inexcusable, but these officiating decisions don’t just affect the result, but perhaps the entire seeding for the playoffs. The Cavs have two games remaining against tough opponents in the Miami Heat and Toronto Raptors, whereas the Boston Celtics have a much easier path against Brooklyn Nets and Milwaukee Bucks in the hopes of owning the East’s best record at the end of the regular season.