The league office on Wednesday reviewed the final play of the San Antonio Spurs’ 93-91 home loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals and acknowledged that a two-shot foul should have been called on Derek Fisher for impeding Brent Barry.
After falling behind by seven points in the final minute, San Antonio sliced the deficit to two and regained possession with 2.1 seconds to play.
Barry then wound up with the ball in the center of the floor on a play called for Manu Ginobili and faked Fisher in the air but struggled to get off a 3-point heave at the buzzer after Fisher came down and bumped Barry.
“With the benefit of instant replay, it appears a foul call should have been made,” league spokesman Tim Frank said Wednesday.
The miss sealed an L.A. victory that moved the Lakers into a commanding 3-1 series lead entering Thursday’s Game 5 at Staples Center.
But the Spurs did not protest the non-call afterward, even though a foul called before the shot would have sent Barry to the line for two free throws and a chance to force overtime.
The non-call nonetheless generated more than the usual scrutiny because the closest referee to the play was Joey Crawford, with whom San Antonio has a contentious recent history.
“That play,” Barry said, “was not where the game was lost.”
The Spurs, in truth, wouldn’t have had a chance to tie or win the game in the final two seconds if not for a fortuitous non-call on the previous possession.
Television replays indicated that Fisher’s shot with 6.9 seconds to go grazed the rim before bouncing out of bounds off of Robert Horry’s leg, meaning that the Lakers should have had a new shot clock instead of asking Kobe Bryant to hurry a fadeaway jumper after the ensuing timeout.
The new shot clock likely would have forced San Antonio to foul Bryant as opposed to getting the ball back off Bryant’s miss to draw up a potential game-winning play.
“It wasn’t a foul. … I think it was a proper no-call from what I saw,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said of Fisher bumping Barry.
Added Spurs forward Tim Duncan: “You’re not going to get that call. They’re not going to make that call.”
The Lakers were likewise adamant that no foul should have been called on Fisher, pointing at least in part to the fact that they didn’t get a new shot clock on the Fisher miss — and that Bryant didn’t earn a single trip to the free-throw line despite attempting 29 shots from the field.
“Yeah, he bumped him,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said of Fisher landing on Barry. “You know, games go like that.”
Marc Stein is the senior NBA writer for ESPN.com. To e-mail him, click here.