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1. Danny Granger is Royalty
I know almost nothing about gospel music. But a couple of decades ago I heard Mahalia Jackson's "In the Upper Room" (it's best loud, on a good sound system) and was convinced from that moment on that it had to be best gospel tune in the history of the planet. Now I've got the box set.
She died in 1972, sadly.
But today I learn from a HoopsTV interview that her great nephew is ... All-Star Pacer Danny Granger.
2. 0.1 Left
Last night with one tenth of a second left, Danny Granger stepped to the free throw line in a tie game with the Cavaliers. He played it perfectly, by hitting the first free throw, and then intentionally missing the second.
Why'd he miss the second? If he misses it, Cleveland gets a rebound 90+ feet from their hoop, and doesn't even have time to call timeout before the game is over. If he hits it, then Cleveland gets the ball out of bounds, with a chance to lob a ball at the rim. The whole time the ball is in the air the clock has not yet started. Then a Cavalier could have, with a great pass and a dollop of luck, tipped that ball into the hoop, gotten fouled, or somehow extended the game.
Of course David Lee did this very thing for New York a couple of years ago.
Which leads to a bit of a tangent. When Lee made that miracle tip, Walt "Clyde" Frazier asked a fascinating question: If the only way you can lose is a tipped ball (the NBA has ruled that to catch the ball and shoot it takes at least 0.3 seconds) why did Charlotte have defenders on the perimeter?
If you had your four tallest athletes in a wall just outside the no-charge area, and someone frustrating the inbound pass, you're only vulnerable to a super-fast, long distance tip. Which is probably impossible.
And one last thought about moments of games with mere tenths on the clock: Did you know that from when the scoreboard operator decides in his mind to push the button to start the clock, until when he manages to push the button and the clock actually lurches into action is generally accepted to take about three tenths of a second?
That means you could push the button the instant David Lee touches the ball, and he'd still have something like 0.4 before the buzzer sounds, and there's nothing anybody can do about it.
This is not science. Not in these increments.
3. Fouls with the Body
Now, to the real matter at hand. Last night's game had a power-packed final second. T.J. Ford made a jumper with 0.8 left to give the Pacers a 95-93 lead.
After a timeout, the Cavaliers lobbed the ball to one of the biggest and best wide receivers in Ohio football history -- LeBron James -- who was being guarded by the inch-shorter and at least 30 pounds-lighter Granger.
Granger moved like anyone would in that situation. He half tried to get the ball, and he half tried to keep his body between the ball and James. They were in contact the entire time the ball was in the air. And it worked. Granger kept the ball from James.
At this point I should tell you that I was on the phone with David Thorpe yesterday and he was saying that it drives him mad how so many plays involve serious bodily contact -- but there is no foul called, because the referees tend to look up where the arms and the ball are.
I countered that body on body contact is a messy thing, and is extremely tough to call. If two players jump a little sideways into each other, whose foul is that?
That's still something I'd like to understand better.
Anyway, this time the referees were watching the bodies, and called a foul on Granger. Everyone wearing white looked really shocked.
James made both free throws. The Pacers had 0.4 to try to win the game. They needed a miracle, not unlike the one Cleveland had just gotten.
As you can see in the highlights, they got that exact thing. This time Indiana lobbed to Granger, who was guarded by James. An eye for an eye, a lob for a lob, a bump for a bump, and a foul for a foul.
Their bodies collided, as you can see in the photo. Foul on James this time. Granger made his free throw for the win.
Cleveland is upset. But I can't see it: Those two foul calls were undeniably equivalent. The referee giveth, and the referee taketh away.
And now the Pacers have wins against the Celtics, Lakers, and Cavaliers. Not a bad little feather in the cap for a team that is auditioning to face the Celtics or Cavaliers in the first round of the playoffs.
UPDATE: My best guess at the part of the NBA rulebook that applies to mid-air collisions is this:
In all guarding situations, a player is entitled to any spot on the court he desires, provided he legally gets to that spot first and without contact with an opponent. If a defensive or offensive player has established a position on the floor and his opponent initiates contact that results in the dislodging of the opponent, a foul should be called IMMEDIATELY.
During all throw-ins, the defensive player(s) must be allowed to take a position between his man and the basket.
A player may continue to move after gaining a guarding position in the path of an opponent provided he is not moving directly or obliquely toward his opponent when contact occurs. A player is never permitted to move into the path of an opponent after the opponent has jumped into the air.
A player who extends a hand, forearm, shoulder, hip or leg into the path of an opponent and thereby causes contact is not considered to have a legal position in the path of an opponent.
A player is entitled to a vertical position even to the extent of holding his arms above his shoulders, as in post play or when double-teaming in pressing tactics.
Any player who conforms to the above is absolved from responsibility for any contact by an opponent which may dislodge or tend to dislodge such player from the position which he has attained and is maintaining legally. If contact occurs, the official must decide whether the contact is incidental or a foul has been committed.
And also, it's worth pointing out that Cavaliers coach Mike Brown freaked out about this play to the referees, and to reporters afterwards. Kevin Pelton e-mailed to point out: Remember when the Cavaliers were the "no excuses" team?
(Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images)