NBA playoffs: Officials admit they flubbed critical kick-ball call in controversial final minute of Pacers-Knicks

Officials took center stage in the final moments of Monday’s Game 1 between the New York Knicks and Indiana Pacers, spoiling an otherwise sensational finish at Madison Square Garden.

Two controversial late calls proved costly for the Pacers as the Knicks held on for a dramatic 121-117 victory. The officials admitted after the game that they were wrong on one of them.

With the game tied at 115-115 in the final minute, Knicks guard Jalen Brunson dribbled the ball across half court. He then delivered an errant pass that bounced off the hand of Pacers guard Aaron Nesmith and into the hands of Indiana teammate Andrew Nembhard for an apparent turnover.

But the officials called a punt on Nesmith and the Knicks retained possession. Nesmith, who did not kick the ball, protested the call.

Twelve seconds later, Donte DiVincenzo scored a 3-pointer to give the Knicks a 118-115 lead.

Then, as the clock ticked under 20 seconds, the Pacers had possession and a chance to take the lead as they trailed 118-117. Tyrese Haliburton dribbled at half court and Myles Turner screened his defender DiVincenzo.

DiVincenzo fell to the ground and officials whistled Turner for a moving screen. This immediately drew the ire of TNT analyst Stan Van Gundy.

“It’s shocking,” Van Gundy said. “You never see that call at this point in the game. I mean, never.

“It’s great acting work. Lots of great actors here in New York. You’ve seen them on Broadway all the time. This is as good acting work as you’ll see. Technically he was moving a little. Indiana will challenge. I don’t think they will win the challenge.

Van Gundy was right. The Pacers did not win the challenge and the Knicks took possession of the ball.

Pacers coach Rick Carlisle opted not to attempt to impose a fine in his postgame comments.  (Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

Pacers coach Rick Carlisle opted not to attempt to impose a fine in his postgame comments. (Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

At this point, Joel Embiid had seen enough. His Philadelphia 76ers were just eliminated by the Knicks in the first round and also found themselves on the wrong end of some controversial late calls at Madison Square Garden. He shared his feelings on social media.

Although there was a lot of gray area around the moving screen, there was nothing to justify the ghost kick that gave the New York 3 the go-ahead. All the officials could do after the game was admit that They were wrong.

“On the field, we felt it would be a punted ball violation,” crew chief Zach Zarba told pool reporter Fred Katz. “Post-match examination showed he touched the defender’s hand, which would be legal.”

Since a kick is not eligible for review, the Pacers had no recourse to correct the call with a challenge during the game.

Pacers coach Rick Carlisle was asked about the officials postgame. He refrained from risking a fine.

“I don’t want to talk about refereeing” he told reporters. “We don’t expect to get any calls here.”

The NBA admitted via a Last 2 Minute Report that officials made several critical errors during the Knicks’ controversial Game 2 victory against the 76ers at Madison Square Garden. Tuesday’s report on Monday’s Game 1 will be highly anticipated.

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