Commissioner David Stern has a big decision to make today. Does he follow the letter of the law or the spirit of right and wrong?
Sounds familiar, doesn't it?The New York Knicks will ask him to overturn their loss to Miami, arguing that the officials blew the call when they disallowed Allan Houston's buzzer-beating basket Sunday in the Heat's 82-81 victory.
The evidence will support the Knicks. The rule book will support the Heat.
Televised replays clearly showed Houston's shot leaving his hand before the clock expired.
The official rules state: "Regardless of when the horn or red light operates to signify the end of period, the officials ultimately make the final decision whether to allow or disallow a successful field goal."
Knicks general manager Ernie Grunfeld said the team will file an official protest today.
"David will take all the evidence and make a ruling," league spokesman Brian McIntyre said.
The rulebook unambiguously states that the officials' decision is final. But the replay clearly shows that the basket should have count-ed, which could give Stern some leeway to differentiate between the letter and spirit of the rule.
The frantic finish began as New York inbounded at midcourt with 4.4 seconds left. Chris Mills took the pass and drove past Alonzo Mourning, but missed a short runner. Charles Oakley missed a tip, and Dan Majerle then slapped the ball in the direction of Houston, who hastily threw up one last attempt at the buzzer.
Referee Bob Delaney immediately signaled the shot didn't count. After conferring briefly with the two other officials, the ruling stood.
"Any time there is a controversial play, we always huddle and decide," head official Hugh Evans said. "There was not a difference of opinion."
NETS 116, RAPTORS 109: At Toronto, Keith Van Horn scored a season-high 33 points, Kerry Kittles added 31, Sam Cassell had 25 and New Jersey played a perfect final three minutes. The Nets won their fifth straight to move ahead of the Knicks and into seventh place.
SUNS 129, GRIZZLIES 106: At Vancouver, George McCloud scored a season-high 25 points as Phoenix won its eighth straight and moved into a tie for fourth place in the West. Antonio McDyess chipped in with 23 points and seven rebounds as six Suns players reached double figures.
PACERS 93, CELTICS 87: At Boston, Antonio Davis scored a season-high 28 points and the Pacers completed a sweep of the four-game season series.
SUPERSONICS 103, ROCKETS 95: At Seattle, Hersey Hawkins scored 20 points, Detlef Schrempf had 16 points and a season-high 15 rebounds and Gary Payton had 19 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds for the Sonics, who won the season series 3-1. Kevin Willis led Houston with 28 points and Clyde Drexler added 25.
HAWKS 91, WIZARDS 81: At Washington, the Hawks came back from an 11-point deficit in the final quarter and left the troubled Wizards on the brink of elimination from the playoff race.
HORNETS 88, PISTONS 86: At Charlotte, Anthony Mason matched his season high with 29 points and added 14 rebounds and four assists to help Charlotte snap a four-game losing streak.