Dwight Howard free throws with the game on the line late in overtime?
The NBA says that should have been the scenario at the end of Sunday's Game 1 of the series between Howard's Houston Rockets and the Portland Trail Blazers. Instead, Blazers center Joel Freeland was sent to the line because of a referee error with 10.8 seconds left in overtime.
The Blazers had a one-point lead, and Freeland made one of two free throws to account for the final score, a 122-120 Portland victory.
"After video review by the league office, we have determined that the officials were incorrect in assessing a foul to the Rockets' Dwight Howard with 10.8 seconds remaining in overtime," Rod Thorn, the NBA's president of basketball operations, said in a news release. "The foul should have been called on the Blazers' Joel Freeland and Howard should have been awarded two free throws."
On the play, Howard moves in for a rebound from the top of the key, but Freeland blocks him and appears to put his arms around him entirely. Howard was called for the foul as Freeland maintained position and the referee missed the reach.
Only two of the eight playoff series Game 1's played over the weekend featured tense endings, and the NBA also has admitted a crucial referee error in the other one, the Golden State Warriors' 109-105 victory at the Los Angeles Clippers. These announcements are all part of a push toward officiating transparency under new Commissioner Adam Silver.
But this error in the Rockets-Blazers game had a more tangible effect than the Warriors-Clippers mistake, as Howard, a 54.7% free throw shooter, would have been sent to the line with a chance to take the lead. Instead Freeland helped the Blazers take home-court advantage from the Rockets.
Game 2 is Wednesday in Houston.