LeBron James added to his legacy Sunday night, hitting a game-winning corner shot as time ran out to lift Cleveland to an 86-84 victory over Chicago to tie their NBA playoff series at 2-2.
But those heroics might not have happened if the referees had noticed what Cavaliers Coach David Blatt was up to just moments earlier.
Check out what happened just after the Bulls' Derrick Rose tied the game with 9.4 seconds remaining:
That's Blatt near the top of the screen, strolling out onto the court while signalling for a timeout. One problem: The Cavaliers didn't have any left. Had the referees noticed his actions, Cleveland would have been called for a technical foul, which would have given the Bulls one free throw and possession of the ball.
Luckily for Blatt, associate head coach Tyronn Lue had his head in the game and managed to drag his boss off the court, allowing this to eventually happen:
“Yeah, I almost blew it,” Blatt said. “I think we called two or three timeouts there on that sideline out [the previous possession]. Good thing they caught it, my guys.”
According to NBA executive vice president of referee operations Mike Bantom, it kind of worked to Blatt's advantage that there were no timeouts remaining, otherwise someone would have been watching him more closely.
"The referees knew that neither team had a timeout remaining, so their focus was on the court," Bantom said. "None of the three officials saw Coach Blatt signal for a timeout."
So all's well that ends well, at least for the Cavs and their fans.
"Players make mistakes, coaches make mistakes and we have to be able to cover for one another," James said after the game. "And T-Lue did that by covering for Blatt and I just try to cover for my guys on the floor. That's why we're a unit."
James made another interesting comment after the game, suggesting that Blatt initially designed a play for the final 1.5 seconds that had James passing the ball inbound rather than being on the receiving end of such a pass in order to get the final shot.
"To be honest, the play that was drawn up, um, I scratched it," James said after the game. "And I told Coach, 'Just give me the ball. And it's either going to overtime or I'm going to win it for us.' It was that simple.
Blatt was asked separately whether the play was drawn up for James to get the ball and make the final shot.
"Yeah," Blatt said, "we wanted him to throw it right in over the shoulder and with that amount of time on the clock, let him take a shot and he did. Great play."
Speaking to reporters on Monday, Blatt admitted to some mistakes during the previous day's game but said it just goes with the territory.
"A basketball coach makes 150-200 critical decisions during the course of a game, something that I think is paralleled only by a fighter pilot," Blatt said.
1:37 p.m.: This post has been updated with Blatt's comment from Monday.
10:44 a.m.: This post has been updated with comments from James and Blatt about the final play.
This post was originally published at 8:01 a.m.Copyright © 2018, Los Angeles Times