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Mark Cuban Files Futile Protest Over Weird Call In Mavericks Loss

2:56 PM EDT on March 23, 2023

DALLAS, TEXAS - MARCH 22: Luka Doncic #77 of the Dallas Mavericks reacts after a call in the second half against the Golden State Warriors at American Airlines Center on March 22, 2023 in Dallas, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Tim Heitman/Getty Images)
Tim Heitman/Getty Images

Late in the third quarter of Wednesday's Warriors-Mavericks game, with Golden State clinging to a one-point lead, something extremely strange happened. Kevon Looney yoinked Luka Doncic down by his jersey and made the space to pursue an offensive rebound, only for the ball to carom out of bounds off ... well, someone. The referee right under the basket ruled the Warriors had possession, before changing his mind and pointing in the Mavs' direction, only for the call to be reversed back to Warriors' ball during a subsequent timeout. The Mavericks clearly thought they would be inbounding the ball, yet for some inexplicable reason, all five guys abandoned their own basket, leaving Looney alone to get an open dunk.

It's rare that one single call decides the outcome of an entire game, especially one that occurs 14 minutes and 75 points before the final whistle. Referees missed calls for both teams throughout the game, including when they looked the other way while Josh Green tackled Anthony Lamb less than a minute later, leading to a Mavericks three. The issue here is that Warriors then went on to win by two points, which seasoned basketball-observers will note is the same amount that Looney's dunk was worth. One such seasoned basketball-observer is Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, who termed his own team's incompetence at understanding who had the basketball in the third quarter of a regular season game in March the, "worst officiating non-call mistake possibly in the history of the NBA" and filed a formal protest.

A protest can only be filed in writing by a team's owner or head coach within 48 hours of the end of the game in question, upon which both teams will have five days to present the league office with evidence supporting their case. The protesting owner will have to fork over $10,000 to the NBA, which they'll only get back if they win the protest. Teams rarely succeed in their protest claims; the two most recent protests were filed during the 2019-20 season, and both failed.

The Houston Rockets blew a 22-point lead and lost to the Spurs in double OT in December 2019, and while they were in the process of building that lead, James Harden had a dunk go through the basket only to curve through the net and bounce up back to the top of the rim again. The league eventually ruled that their officials did screw up the call, though they denied the Rockets' protest, saying that the Rockets had enough time not to blow their big lead and lose in double OT, 18 minutes later. The Mavericks filed the league's most recent protest in February 2020 over a blown goaltending call/inadvertent whistle whoopsie, and they were also denied.

The most recent successful protest was filed by the Miami Heat 15 seasons ago, when a statistician accidentally gave Shaquille O'Neal an extra foul, causing him to foul out late in an overtime loss to the Hawks in December 2007. The two teams replayed the final 51.9 seconds of overtime in March 2008, and though O'Neal was eligible to play the last bit of overtime he incorrectly missed months earlier, his ass had already been traded to Phoenix so he wasn't able to play anyway.

This is all to say, the league really does not like to do do-overs, and the Mavericks are not going to get their way here, especially since whatever error occurred here (if any) wasn't nearly as clear as any of the other recent cases. Also, the Mavericks only lost by two instead of five because Reggie Bullock hit an uncontested three-pointer at the end of regulation. Crew chief Sean Wright disputed Cuban's version of events, stating that they never indicated the Mavs had possession of the ball during the confusion. "There is a second signal, but that signal is for a mandatory timeout that was due to the Mavs," Wright said. Seeing as how the league has denied far clearer protests far closer to the ends of games, all that's going to change here is that Cuban will be short $10,000. Luka Doncic too, maybe.

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