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League Denies Spurs’ Appeal on Fisher’s Shot

Times Staff Writer

After further review, San Antonio still lost.

The NBA denied the Spurs’ appeal that the game clock did not start quickly enough before Derek Fisher’s shot gave the Lakers a 74-73 victory Thursday in Game 5.

For the record:

12:00 AM, May. 16, 2004 For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday May 16, 2004 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 54 words Type of Material: Correction
Lakers playoff protest -- An article in Saturday’s Sports section about the San Antonio Spurs’ unsuccessful protest of the Lakers’ Thursday playoff victory reported that only one of 22 protests in NBA history has been upheld. Two have been upheld. A successful protest by the Spurs of a Laker game in 1982 was omitted.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday May 16, 2004 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 54 words Type of Material: Correction
Lakers playoff protest -- An article in Saturday’s Sports section about the San Antonio Spurs’ unsuccessful protest of the Lakers’ Thursday playoff victory reported that only one of 22 protests in NBA history has been upheld. Two have been upheld. A successful protest by the Spurs of a Laker game in 1982 was omitted.

A statement released Friday by the NBA said videotape showed the game clock “started appropriately.” The statement also confirmed referees’ postgame judgment via courtside instant replay that Fisher’s shot was released before time expired.

The league’s decision was shrugged off by Spur Coach Gregg Popovich, who said the appeal was a matter of due diligence.

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“You talk to all [our] technological guys and they put it up on the screen, and it did start late,” Popovich said. “There’s no doubt that the clock started late, but that’s using all the technological stuff that I don’t understand.

“But in reality, the refs did a great job. They did it as quickly as they could. The ball went in and they win the game. You can’t expect anything different in reality. It’s a good decision. We just wanted to do our due diligence and give them something to think about.”

There were four-tenths seconds left when Gary Payton threw the ball inbounds to Fisher, who spun around with Manu Ginobili guarding him and heaved an 18-footer that appeared to leave Fisher’s hands with one-tenth of a second left.

Spur officials, however, were angry after they reviewed the play in a video room deep within SBC Center, claiming the clock’s slow start gave Fisher extra time to turn and shoot.

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All three referees -- in this case, Dan Crawford, Ron Garretson and Joe Forte -- are equipped with remote clock-starting devices on their belts. The clock starts after any of the three referees or an NBA-provided courtside clock operator presses the time-start button.

NBA spokesman Tim Frank declined to say which of the four officials first pressed the button.

“It’s not something we think is relevant,” Frank said. “All four had the capability of doing it.” There were no electronic malfunctions, Frank said.

The Spurs filed a written protest by midnight, local time, as required by the NBA during the playoffs.

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Of the 22 protests in league history, only one has been upheld. In a November 1978 game between New Jersey and Philadelphia, the league ruled that a misapplication of a technical-foul rule resulted in four unwarranted free throws that affected the outcome of the game.

More recently, the league denied the New York Knicks’ protest last month that two clock malfunctions in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter had a detrimental effect on a playoff game against New Jersey.

Protests are typically reviewed by a handful of league officials, with Commissioner David Stern making the final call.

“Under David, there’s never been a protest that has been upheld,” Frank said. Stern became commissioner in 1984.

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Fisher’s winning shot came after an equally stunning shot by Tim Duncan, who managed to make a rainbow 18-footer as he staggered across the top of the key with Shaquille O’Neal closely guarding him.

After Fisher’s shot, the Spurs were left to pick up the pieces. They took a midafternoon flight Friday to Los Angeles, with Game 6 tonight at Staples Center.

“That was especially cruel [Thursday] night,” Popovich said. “People say it’s never a win until it’s over, but when you make a shot with four-tenths left you’re going to celebrate. You’re a human being, you’re going to do it. From that high to that low was a huge shift.

“Everybody deserved to feel bad last night. If they went home and felt bad or stayed up like we did watching film, they deserved that. But that cup’s going to fill up again and we’re going to help them fill up that cup if they need that help.”

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