Depending on which side you were on, Wednesday night’s Game 5 between the Charlotte Hornets and Miami Heat marked either a joyous or dreadful realization that the Hornets are a game away from making both franchise and NBA history.
The NBA announced Thursday that a controversial no call on a last-second Dwyane Wade drive was the right call, much to the chagrin of Wade, Gabrielle Union and the rest of the Miami faithful. Instead of going to the line for two, Wade and the Heat will now go to Charlotte in hopes of staying off of the slim list of NBA teams to allow a team to come back from being down 0-2.
Only 16 teams in NBA history have climbed out of the same hole Charlotte found itself in heading into Game 3. The Hornets’ defense struggled to slow down and contain the Heat offense early in the series, allowing Wade and Co. to rack up 238 points and two wins in the opening two games. Charlotte’s luck and its defense made a U-turn after the opening pair of losses. In the three games since, the Heat have amassed a mere 253 points and have a shooting percentage of 38.6, a significant drop from the 57.8 percent shooting in the first two games.
Charlotte’s Game 5 win was painful for Miami. The Hornets led for the majority of the first half before allowing the Heat to steal back the lead in the third quarter. After a Nicolas Batum triple put Charlotte up two at the 5:18 mark, the two teams traded the lead five times before a timely Courtney Lee three-pointer with 25 seconds left put the Hornets up 90-88.
Again, depending on which side you were on, the game then featured either a clutch defensive rotation or plain-as-day highway robbery.
In the waning seconds of the game, with the Hornets up 90-88, Wade posted Lee and had a baseline path to the basket. Cody Zeller shuffled over and made bodily contact with Wade as he kept his arms stretched high. Lee, coming from behind, swatted for the ball and instead caught Wade’s forearm.
The NBA, and most Hornets fans, believe the play and the contact was legal and not worthy of a whistle. Dwyane Wade and Gabrielle Union think otherwise. Immediately after, Wade crowded the face of the nearest official, slightly bumping him, and giving him an earful. At the same time, his wife was letting the online world know what she thought of the non-call.
She went on to say that she wished the NBA would make public the fines it issues its referees, like the league does for players and coaches. And she was far from the only fan or casual observer to voice complaints. Screenshots of Lee making contact with Wade’s shooting forearm on the shot began to make their rounds on social media.
Oddly enough, the NBA’s referee Twitter account responded to Union.
After the game, Wade spoke with Associated Press reporter Tim Reynolds about the play, saying he would not review the play to be sure of the foul because he understands the foul was just not called.
“There’s no reason for me to look at it. It ain’t going to change anything. I thought I did. It wasn’t called.”
He also offered a semi-condolence to Union, though it would seem, at that point, Wade had yet to figure out that he was not going to be the only one in his house stewing about the call.
Later in the afternoon, the league issued its last two minute Game 5 report and commented on the controversial play, ruling that upon review, swallowing the whistle was the right call, as Zeller jumped vertically and Lee’s forearm contact came after Wade had already lost the ball.
Zeller (CHA) comes towards Wade (MIA) from across the restricted area, planting his foot and jumping vertically to defend Wade’s shot. Zeller absorbs contact when it occurs and, while his arms are not completely vertical, multiple angles confirm they do not make contact with Wade. Therefore, Zeller maintains a legal guarding position as he attempts to defend the shot.
Lee makes contact with the ball during Wade’s upward shooting motion, which makes his subsequent, minor arm contact with Wade incidental. Lee then makes contact with Wade’s arm again at about 00:04.9, however, Wade has already lost possession of the ball.
As expected, the league’s explanation did not satisfy all those upset by the no call. Wade has yet to offer a public comment on the league’s ruling.
The Heat and Hornets will play Game 6 Friday night in Charlotte.