After Lillard no-call, NBA needs to revisit replay standards


Austin Dykstra, Writer

The use of replay in the NBA has been greatly expanded upon over the past few seasons. This season, more controversial plays are reviewable, as the NBA has afforded teams a coach’s challenge. However, while these rule changes are welcome and ensuring a better officiated game is only beneficiary to the product on the court, the current replay rules in the NBA are still not without controversy.

With 17 seconds left, the Portland Trailblazers found themselves down 116-114 against the Utah Jazz when star point guard Damien Lillard drove to the basket to attempt the game-tying layup. Lillard gingerly laid the ball against the glass, only to have Rudy Gobert block it on its way down for an easy goaltending call. 

The refs, however, didn’t see it that way. Instead, they inconceivably told the Trailblazers that it wasn’t even close to a goaltend. 

The officials acknowledged the missed goaltending call committed by Gobert after the game. 

“No, it was not reviewable since no goaltending call was made on the floor. Goaltending is only reviewable if we actually call it. The call needs to be made for goaltending to be reviewable. We’ve since looked at it via postgame video review, and unfortunately saw that we missed the play, and a goaltending violation should have been called,” said NBA official and crew chief Josh Tiven following the game. 

Lillard was irate with the officials during the closing moments of the game. His frustration understandably carried into the locker room as he spoke with reporters. 

“We get to the last play of the game, and they miss an easy call,” said Lillard. “And then they tell us, it’s an easy no-call, like that’s obviously not a goaltend. it cost us a f—— game, man. We’re in a playoff race, and it cost us the game.” 

Following a four-game slide, the Trailblazers sit four games behind the Memphis Grizzlies for the eighth and final playoff spot in the hotly contested Western Conference. There’s no telling whether or not the Blazers would have been better positioned had goaltending been called, but losing a game due to the NBA’s replay rules has to sting, and it showcases the inability of the current rules to get calls in critical moments right. 

And one would be forgiven for asking what’s the point of replay if the purpose isn’t to ensure that NBA games aren’t won or lost on missed calls. Fans should demand an answer as to why the NBA insists on implementing an imperfect system when perfection is attainable. Tradition means nothing to teams forced to forfeit valuable wins smack dab in the middle of congested playoff races. Yet the NBA remains indebted to the concept of discretion, a readymade excuse to deflect blame after games are decided by missed calls and the misapplication of rules.

There’s no point in having the ability to review goaltending plays only if the officials call it in the first place. In critical moments, replay should be used to correctly officiate the game, and not be held back by ridiculous stipulations.