What should have been a great Christmas Day clash between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors was overshadowed by controversial officiating which occurred late in the game that determined the outcome of the contest.
In a rematch of the past three NBA Finals, the Warriors came out on top at Oracle Arena against the Cavaliers on Monday, winning 99-92 in the game.
In the final few moments of the game, Golden State's Kevin Durant escaped several defensive sequences without the game being stopped for him fouling Cleveland's LeBron James. This ultimately allowed Durant and the Warriors to pick up their 27th win of the season so far.
In the NBA’s “Last Two Minute Report” released on Tuesday evening, the league determined that James was in fact fouled by Durant on two of his crucial drives to the basket in the final two minutes of regulation.
The NBA conceded that the officials had missed not one, not two, but three calls on the Warriors' star in the final 72 seconds of the contest. The worst call the fouls missed was when James drove the basket and was challenged by Durant. There were less than 30 seconds on the clock in the game at this point.
If James had been awarded two free throws thanks to the personal foul, his shots from the free throw line could have cut Golden State's lead down to just one point with 24.5 seconds remaining in the game. Instead, the Western Conference side was able to extend their lead and win.
Unsurprisingly, both players had different opinions on the fouls, with James believing it was a foul, while Durant denied any wrongdoing.
The Cavaliers star said after the game: “I lost it on the left wing. He got me a little bit, but I lost that one. But obviously the overturned one, he fouled me twice. But, whatever. What are you going to do about it?” After the play, Durant was caught on camera mouthing, “He’s too big. He’s too big for that. That’s no foul.”
While there's no guarantee that the missed calls would have given Cleveland the win, if the free throws were scored, it could have changed how the final few sequences of the game would have played out, as the Eastern Conference side would have been positioned in a better spot to win the game.