NBA Instant Replay revolves around the idea of accuracy. No one wants games decided by a missed call so replay is all about getting it right. But what happens when the quest for precision becomes a problem?
Tuesday night’s game between the Los Angeles Clippers and Phoenix Suns was the poster boy for the case against instant replay.
The Clippers and Suns were in an exciting battle all night. Role players like Cameron Payne and Ivica Zubac were playing like seasoned vets. No team could get an edge as they traded baskets throughout the fourth quarter.
Then, the last 90 seconds became a new game in itself.
90 seconds of the game took 33 REAL MINUTES. Not 3 minutes, not 13 minutes, but 33 minutes. That makes me want to puke. You could have started and finished the basketball episode of The Office with 1:30 left in the fourth quarter and not miss much from the real basketball game.
Something has to change.
Nothing personifies what’s wrong with replay more than the Devin Booker-Patrick Beverley situation. With just under 14 seconds left, Devin Booker drove to the right-wing. Patrick Beverley moved his feet, swatted at the ball, and knocked it out of bounds. The refs ruled Suns ball.
Not so fast my friend.
Beverley spun his index finger in the air like he was calling for a daiquiri break in Wedding Crashers. In the last two minutes of an NBA game, the spinning finger motion has more power over the officials than any coach or player. If you swing your finger in the air on an out-of-bounds play, nine times out of ten, the officials will huddle up and go to the table for review.
This situation was no different. The refs huddled up and went to the table for the review. After viewing super slow-mo replays for a few minutes, the refs decided to overturn the call on the floor and award the ball to the Clippers.
Throughout basketball’s illustrious history, we know that the Booker-Beverley play should have resulted in Suns ball. If this game was in a local park, then it would be Suns ball. If that play that happened with 2:01 left in the fourth quarter, then it would be Suns ball. However, because of super slow-mo, the ball probably went off Booker’s fingertips at the last nanosecond so the refs changed the call to Clippers ball.
If Booker reached for the ball before it went out of bounds, then I have no problem with awarding the ball to the Clippers. But that’s not what happened. The ball was knocked out of his hands in one motion. That’s Suns ball, and you can’t convince me otherwise.
Even worse, replays take way too long. Five reviews in 30 minutes are unacceptable for a product that’s struggling with its ratings. I have friends who always complain about the end of games, saying the “last two minutes take two hours.” I love the NBA and will always watch the game, but the casual fan has a point in terms of length. Why should casual fans watch a game that spends more time at the scorer’s table than on the court at the end of games?
If replays are long, tedious, and inaccurate, why use them?
To fix replay, the NBA should steal a page from tennis. In my opinion, tennis has the best use of replay. It’s quick and accurate and gives players a definitive answer as to whether the ball is in or out.
The NBA should adopt the same principles. The league can still keep replay in the last two minutes of the game, but put a time limit of 30 seconds on each replay. If the refs can’t make a decision within 30 seconds, then it’s not a clear and obvious reversal so stick with the call on the floor. With a 30-second review, the coaches and players won’t receive a free three-minute timeout. The flow of the game will be preserved. Most importantly, the fans won’t get restless.
I’m all for getting the call right, but it’s time to adjust replay in the NBA.
Do you agree or disagree? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.