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

Officials stood in the spotlight in the closing moments of Monday’s Game 1 between the New York Knicks and Indiana Pacers, ending an otherwise thrilling finish at Madison Square Garden.

A pair of controversial late calls proved costly for the Pacers as the Knicks held on for a dramatic 121-117 victory. After the game, the officials admitted they got one of them wrong.

With the game tied 115-115 in the final minute, Knicks guard Jalen Brunson made a half-court dribble. He then bounced an errant pass off the hands of tight end Aaron Nesmith and delivered an apparent turnover into the hands of Indiana teammate Andrew Nembhardt.

But the officials whistled a kick on Nesmith, and the Knicks kept possession. Nesmith, who did not kick the ball, protested the call.

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

Then, with less than 20 seconds left on the clock, the Pacers had a chance to take the lead after trailing 118-117. Tyrese Halliburton dribbled to half court, and Myles Turner set a screen on his defender, DiVincenzo.

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

“It was shocking,” Van Gundy said. “You never see that call at this stage of the game. I mean, never.

“It’s a great acting job. There’s a lot of great actors in New York City. You see them on Broadway all the time. An acting job is as good as you can see. He’s moved a little bit technically. I don’t think Indiana’s going to win the challenge.

Van Gundy was right. The Pacers were not successful in the challenge, and the Knicks took over.

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Pacers coach Rick Carlisle didn't want to be penalized in his postgame comments.  (Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

Pacers coach Rick Carlisle didn’t want to be penalized in his postgame comments. (Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

At this point, Joel Embiid has seen enough. His Philadelphia 76ers were eliminated in the first round by the Knicks and were on the wrong end of some late controversial calls at Madison Square Garden. She took to social media to share her feelings.

While there are plenty of gray areas around the moving screen, there’s no justification for the phantom kicked ball that sets up New York’s go-ahead 3. After admitting they got the game wrong, all officials can do.

“On the ground, we felt it would be a kicked ball violation,” committee president Zach Sarba told pool reporter Fred Katz. “Postgame review showed it hit the defender’s arm, and that would have been legal.”

Because a kicked ball is not eligible for review, the pacers have no way to correct the call with a challenge during the game.

Pacers coach Rick Carlisle was asked about the postgame. He avoided the risk of fines.

“I don’t want to talk about power,” he told reporters. “We didn’t expect the calls to come in here.”

The NBA admitted in a last 2-minute statement that officials made several critical mistakes in the Knicks’ controversial Game 2 win over the 76ers at Madison Square Garden. Tuesday’s report on Monday’s Game 1 will be highly anticipated.

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