- Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer
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DALLAS – The referees’ explanation didn’t make any sense to Dirk Nowitzki.
Before walking off the floor after the Dallas Mavericks’ 122-120 overtime loss Tuesday to the Golden State Warriors, Nowitzki asked the officiating crew of Danny Crawford, Sean Corbin and Eric Dalen why Warriors center Jermaine O'Neal wasn’t called for goaltending on his critical block of a Monta Ellis floater with 13 seconds remaining and the game tied.
“I think his layup has a chance to get to the rim, and if that’s the case, you can’t just get it out of the air,” Nowitzki said. “To me, that’s a goaltend. I asked the referees what happened. The explanation was that the ball was two feet short. If that’s the case, then he can get it out of the air, but where I was from, I think it had a chance to at least hit the rim. That’s a goaltend to me.”
Reviews show that there is no question that the ball would have at least reached the rim. O’Neal insisted that he got his right hand on the ball before it started its descent, making it a legal block.
“It was like a second away from goaltending, if you're too late, and I was on top of it,” said O’Neal, noting that Ellis dunked on him to finish an almost identical drive from the right wing in the fourth quarter. “I blocked it, grabbed it and outlet it. There's no way they could have called that.
“When your hand is on top of the ball, that's a good block. I caught it like this, I didn't bat it, I caught it like this, so there's no way they could have called it goaltending.”
Ellis left the locker room before the media were allowed in, as he often does after losses.
Crawford, who has repeatedly drawn the ire of Mavs fans and officials over the years, was the referee closest to the play, positioned on the baseline.
Mavs owner Mark Cuban, whose seven-figure fine total during his 14-year tenure has been largely assessed due to criticizing officiating, declined to comment. He voiced his displeasure to the officials on the floor.
NBA president of basketball operations Rod Thorn released a statement Wednesday regarding the situation, admitting an error.
“Upon review at the league office, we have found that a shot taken by Dallas’ Monta Ellis with 16.0 seconds remaining in overtime was on the way down when initially contacted and ruled a block by Golden State’s Jermaine O’Neal, and should have been ruled a goaltend. The exact trajectory of the ball when touched was impossible to ascertain with the naked eye, and the play was not reviewable.”