The Game-on-the-Line/Final Possession foul is one of the most inscrutable events in professional team sports.  There isn’t an equivalent.  Baseball umpires have no compunction about a called third strike when the game is on the line.  Refs on the gridiron will flag defensive backs for pass interference in the most crucial game situations.  For whatever reason, though, it’s universally accepted that the threshold for a foul is elevated to aggravated assault in a game’s closing seconds.  Basketball referees swallow their whistles and let “the players decide the game.”  And by and large, that’s the way we like it.  

So when Cuttino Mobley’s foul on Antawn Jamison with :02.2 seconds, it’s incomprehensible.   Here’s what happens:  The Clips lead 100-97.  DeShawn Stevenson inbounds the ball on the far side to Jamison outside the arc.  Jamison, covered by Mobley, catches the inbound, spins 180 degrees clockwise to square up for the 3PA.  Cat has his left hand on Jamison’s right hip.  But as Jamison sets and elevates for the shot, Cat actually removes his hand.  As Jamison releases the ball, there’s absolutely no contact between the two players.  But Olandis Poole whistles Cat for the foul and Jamison goes to the line, and hits three of three.

Clipperblog rarely brings officiating into the conversation.  But I don’t think it’s a stretch to suggest that if this situation were to play itself out 100 times, the defender would be whistled for the foul maybe twice.  In fact, let’s take the situation out of its crucial context.  Barring egregious contact on a follow-through [see Thomas and Maggette’s earlier fouls on Washington 3PAs], it’s rare you hear any whistles beyond the arc.  

I suppose we can criticize Mobley for the foul, but as a fan, I like my team to actually, you know, defend a final shot.  What I see here from Cuttino Mobley and Antawn Jamison is a straight-up NBA play with a game on the line.  And the subsequent whistle is unconscionable.  

Regarding the first 47:58, I love Maggette as a catch-and-shoot artist when his shot is falling.  In the closing seconds of the first half, he uses a Thomas screen beautifully to get an open look from the arc.  In the second half, he swings around behind Quentin Ross on a broken set.  And in the fourth, he exploits the Washington zone to step back and launch a couple.  Tonight reminds me of his torrid run in December and early January:  FGM>FTA.  

Al Thornton leaves the game in the first half with a left leg contusion.  No word on the extent of the injury.

Lineup at the conclusion of the first half:

Brevin Knight
Smush Parker
Cuttino Mobley
Josh Powell
Nick Fakekas

Given Parker’s injury, I’m still trying to figure out precisely what this guy gives you other than some length.  To call him a cipher would be unfair to the place value system.  Zero suggests a non-effect, and Parker is an undeniable negative.