TORONTO – The Golden State Warriors and Toronto Raptors played a lively, entertaining game Saturday night, one that featured Golden State scoring 81 points in the first half and Toronto nearly erasing a 27-point deficit before falling agonizingly short against the defending champions.
That, however, was not the focus of the conversation here afterward. Instead, it was the officiating — specifically a pair of calls in the final minute that went against the home team.
“It’s frustrating being out there feeling like you’re playing five-on-eight,” Raptors star DeMar DeRozan said after Toronto’s 127-125 loss, a comment sure to garner attention from the league office. “It’s just what it feels like — period. Some of them calls were terrible — period.”
DeRozan was involved in one of the controversial plays: A ball that was initially called out of bounds off Warriors star Stephen Curry with one second remaining was instead called off DeRozan with three seconds remaining following what could be described as a rugby scrum after a crucial jump ball.
The play had the Raptors hot, as they were wondering why the officials could go back two seconds to review whether DeRozan was out of bounds (let alone whether players were out of bounds earlier in what was clearly a wild possession) instead of looking directly at whether Curry was out of bounds himself.
Joe Borgia, the NBA’s senior vice president of replay and referee operations, explained what happened in a statement provided to The Washington Post: “Instant replay review was used because the officials were unsure who should be awarded possession after the ball went out of bounds. During replay, we checked the loose ball sequence at the sideline, and we determined that Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan caused the ball to go out of bounds with three seconds remaining. The Warriors were awarded the ball, and the clock was reset to three seconds.”
The other controversial play was more straightforward — if not any less infuriating to the Raptors. Down one with 45.2 seconds left, it looked like Toronto was off to the races after second-year center Jakob Poeltl blocked Curry’s shot at the rim, and the Raptors were going to be able to head the other way with an odd-man advantage. But then referee Courtney Kirkland — ironically, working his first Warriors game since butting heads with guard Shaun Livingston in a game at Miami on Dec. 3 — called a foul on Poeltl, who had not only blocked Curry’s shot but hit him with plenty of body after doing so.
A report of the calls made inside the final two minutes will be released Sunday afternoon (as is done after every game). Whether that report sides with the Raptors will be of little consolation to Coach Dwane Casey, who called the play “a backbreaker.”
“There are just so many calls down the stretch. … I’ve got to look at them and see,” Casey said. “Again, I’m looking [up at the video board], but it’s mind-boggling when you ask an official, ‘Did you see it?’ [And they say], ‘No, I didn’t see it; it wasn’t my call.’ I’ve got to have an explanation.”
Even in his frustration, though, Casey couldn’t help but make a joke as he alternated between praising the officials and expressing his frustration for how the game played out. He expressed admiration for the fight of his players to make a game of it after putting themselves in a 27-point halftime hole.
“And I have all the respect in the world for our officials, but when you go in and have that situation, guys fighting their hearts out … again, maybe they thought we didn’t deserve it the way we played in the first half, I don’t know. But the way [we] scrapped in the second half, it blows my mind. I think we have the best officials in the world.”
Few in Toronto agreed with him after the way Saturday night’s game ended.
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