Sunday, January 27, 2013

Basketball: Playing the Inbounds Backboard

Confusion reigned supreme on NBA-TV Saturday evening during the waning seconds of Utah's 114-110 overtime win against the Indiana Pacers after Jazz forward Paul Millsap's inbounds pass deflected off the backboard before falling onto the playing court:
Did it hit the backboard? This is unreal.
Following a three-point field goal by Indiana guard George Hill to trim Utah's late lead to 112-110, a violation on the ensuing throw-in by Millsap would have given Indiana the ball for a potential game-tying or game-winning opportunity. Instead, the ball was kept alive and after touching several players, settled into the arms of Millsap, who held onto the ball as Indiana's Paul George committed a foul to send Millsap to the free-throw line, allowing Utah to ice the game.

Yet as the broadcast—and's own video description ("Controversial Ending")—allude to, should a violation have been called? Did the referees miss a crucial call?

No, officials Marc Davis, J.T. Orr & Leon Wood got the call right; the ball struck the bottom of the backboard.

NBA Rule 4-I-c: "Five sides of the backboard (front, two sides, bottom and top) are considered in play when contacted by the basketball. The back of the backboard and the area directly behind it are out-of-bounds." Rule 8-II-a agrees: "the ball is out-of-bounds when it touches...the supports or back of the backboard." Rule 8-III-f, which states, a throw-in that "touches anything above the playing surface is a violation. The ball must be thrown directly inbounds," pertains to items such as the center-court scoreboard or speaker system, as the five in-bound sides of the backboard are, by rule, inbounds; therefore, Millsap's throw-in complies with the statement, "the ball must be thrown directly inbounds." It was.

NCAA college Rule 7-1-2 specifies a ball shall be out-of-bounds if it touches "the supports or back of the backboard" while 9-5-1-g specifies that a thrower-in shall not throw the ball so that it "strikes the back of the backboard or its supports." NFHS high school 7-1-2-a-3, while 4-4-5 emphatically declares, "a ball which touches the front faces or edges of the backboard is treated the same as touching the floor inbounds." Both codes further specify a violation if the throw-in pass becomes lodged between the backboard and ring or comes to rest on the flange without first touching an inbounds player (e.g., 7-2-8).

Had Millsap's throw touched the back of the backboard or its supports or had the ball deflected off the bottom of the board and fallen or bounced out-of-bounds without being touched, he would have violated NBA Rule 10-III-7 (a thrower-in shall not "cause the ball to go out-of-bounds without being touched by a player in the game"). Had Millsap been the first to touch the ball after it deflected off the backboard in-bounds, he would have been in violation of 10-III-3 ("touch it on the court before it has touched another player").

Wrap: Indiana Pacers vs. Utah Jazz (1/26/13)
Video: Millsap's inbounds pass bounces off the bottom of the backboard before touching a player


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