- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 9, 2017

LOS ANGELES — Even the home team had cobwebs to brush aside at the start. The Los Angeles Clippers were accustomed to a 12:30 p.m. Pacific Standard Time Saturday tip-off little more than the Washington Wizards. Washington led 13-0 to open the game. Multiple players, for both sides, appeared still sleepy. The game was not crisp. The crowd was not hyped. A passive Saturday afternoon was underway when Washington’s situation flipped from 13 points in front to 13 behind by halftime.

But, by the time the game was over, any earlier sleepwalking was crushed by a taught, head-scratching finish. The referees made a mistake. The Wizards rallied before making several of their own. Washington left Staples Center mad after a 113-112 loss to a Clippers team that is missing four starters. Another game had slipped away, as has been common this season. Though, none had done so quite like this.

Lou Williams‘ 29-foot 3-pointer with 1.2 seconds to play was the most normal part of the closing two seconds of the game. Williams scored 35 points, is at his most lethal when going left for a pullup, which he did, and makes his cash in the NBA by being a nightmare to cover. The afterward was strange, so strange that the referees managed to make two mistakes, take away a basket from Bradley Beal which may not have counted anyway, then provide an explanation that only made things more confusing.

Following Williams‘ make, Washington called timeout. The clock showed 1.2. Tomas Satoransky inbounded the ball to Beal who decided to take a dribble instead of pulling up. He stopped along the baseline and shoveled a shot up and in. The shot appeared to be late. There was instant confusion.

The referees went to the monitor, presumably to see if Beal’s shot should have counted. The clock had appeared to start late. After consultation with the NBA replay center in Secaucus, New Jersey, the officials decided that 1.1 seconds — one-tenth of a second less than when Washington initially received the ball — should go on the clock. They also moved the location of the inbounds spot from on the sideline near the 3-point line to into the corner. Satoransky was now pinned by elongated DeAndre Jordan. Washington had lost a tenth of second. A busted play ended with a Marcin Gortat 21-foot attempt. Yet, that also was not the end of the afternoon’s oddities.

Afterward, crew chief Bill Spooner explained that the referees had made a mistake. The clock should have been reset to 0.1, not 1.1, following the clock malfunction.

“We had a clock malfunction, early start,” Spooner said in a league-approved pool report. The crew actually incorrectly reset the shot-clock to 1.1, we should have reset it to 0.1. The reason is, on an early start, we timed the possession, the lost time. The only time that was lost was 0.1. So we should have inbounded the ball at the point of interruption, which is what we did, but it should have been at 0.1 instead of 1.1.”

Asked for clarity after citing rule 13, section 1A-5, Spooner explained further.

“The wasted time, if you will, the time that they lost, was 1.1. With an inbounds at 1.2, that leaves, mathematically, 0.1 and that should have been where we reset it. We actually made the mistake, in their favor if you will, and reset it at 1.1.

“By rule, it’s a clock malfunction, early start and we have certain protocol to do on that play, which should have meant 0.1 rather than 1.1.”

Beal and Wizards coach Scott Brooks were baffled afterward. Brooks said he had not received an explanation before meeting with reporters. Beal said the referees basically said there was nothing more they could do.

“They said it’s kind of called the, ‘some [expletive] rule,’” Beal said. “It’s like a freak rule. To me, it didn’t kind of really make sense because you kind of take a basket away. You go back and… he was like, we get the same amount of time, but we didn’t get the same amount of time and then the ball was placed in the corner. I don’t really … The ‘tough [expletive] rule.’

“I don’t get it, man. We had a great play. Now, that you take that away, that gives the defense a chance to set up now, to change some things and now we’ve got to go back and change into different things with the ball in the corner. It’s a crazy rule. There’s nothing we can do about it. An official said there was nothing they could do about it. It’s just what it is.”

The Wizards had much to lament outside of the strange situation delivered in the final 1.2 seconds. Satoransky again played well, but missed two free throws with 51 seconds to play.

He was fouled when running out on a break. That stopped the clock, and became as good as a turnover after the two misses. The Clippers also grabbed an offensive rebound with 13 seconds to play that led to a kickout for Austin Rivers. He made a 3-pointer to give Los Angeles a 110-109 lead with 12 seconds to play. Beal scored and was fouled on the next play. His free throw put the Wizards in front by a point eight seconds to play. That left a final shot for the Clippers.

Williams was in the corner against Beal and Gortat. The pair did not trap. Instead, Gortat slid back and Williams worked his way up to the top of the key. He crossed to his left hand, pulled up and swished the 3-pointer.

That shot, and the subsequent mismanagement by players and referees, moved the Wizards to 4-4 without injured John Wall. They had won consecutive road games, appeared to be over some of their ills, and appeared to be moving forward, finally. Then Saturday delivered a reminder they are not. A strange reminder at that.

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