It was a controversial ending to the Celtics 133-131 loss to the Indiana Pacers Monday night at Gainbridge Fieldhouse.
With the scored tied at 131 with 3.2 seconds left to play, it appeared Pacers guard Buddy Hield fouled C's All-Star wing Jaylen Brown on a potential game-winning field goal attempt. Hield made contact with Brown's head while trying to block the shot from behind.
After calling a foul on the floor, the Pacers challenge and the call is overturned. Pacers ball. pic.twitter.com/p5pbX0pp0U— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) January 9, 2024
While Hield was initially called for a foul, it was overturned after the Pacers challenged the play and was awarded possession of the ball following the review.
Brown, of course, still visibly upset with the called being reversed and went as far as saying, the league should investigate -- during his postgame comments.
"I think he obviously hit me in the head," Brown told reporters. "I think they definitely need to do some investigation, that's all I’m going to say. I think that was an obvious one. I've never heard of 'head [is] part of the ball.' It doesn't make any sense to me."
But that wasn't the only controversial call in those final 3.2 seconds, as the ensuing play for the Pacers after their challenge was deemed successful -- resulted in free throws for Bennedict Mathurin when he drew a foul on Celtics big man Kristaps Porzingis while taking his last-second 3-point attempt.
Mathurian hit the first two free throws and missed the third one on purpose leaving 0.3 on the game clock, before Boston missed an alley-oop inbound pass attempt that would have sent the contest to overtime as time expired -- giving the Pacers the victory in front of their home crowd.
Following the loss, Brown told the media that he asked referee James Williams if he got hit in the head, and Williams said no.
"I went up and asked, like, 'Did I get hit in the head?' He looks me straight in the face and he says, 'No, you didn't get hit in the head.' And I'm like, 'OK,'" Brown said."Then you come down on the other end, like, that cost our team the game. Then you expect us not to be frustrated. We're trying to build good habits. We're trying to win as many games as possible, and we just dropped one because of that."
Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla also claimed that Hield approached him after the conclusion of the challenge and admitted he indeed fouled Brown.
"Buddy Hield told me he fouled him [Brown]," Mazzulla said in his postgame presser. "I can't wait for the two-minute report."
Meanwhile, the NBA released it's Last-Two Minute Report late Tuesday afternoon and it certainly won't make the Celtics or Mazzulla feel any better about the situation.
According to the league report, the reversal of the foul called on Hield against Brown was correct, stating that even though contact was made by Hield, it "does not necessarily constitute a foul."
"On replay review, the coach's challenge of the shooting foul called on Hield (IND) was deemed successful. The video clearly shows that Hield reaches forward and makes contact with the ball from behind Brown (BOS). While in contact with the ball, Hield also makes minimal contact with Brown's head, and on review that contact was correctly deemed incidental."As the rulebook makes clear, the mere fact that contact occurs does not necessarily constitute a foul; contact which is incidental to an effort by a player to defend an opponent, reach a loose ball, or perform normal defensive or offensive movements is not considered illegal. Play resumed with IND possession, since Nesmith (IND) had imminent possession at the point of interruption."
To make matters worse, the report also states that the league ruled Porzingis shouldn't have been called for a foul on Mathurin that ultimately led to Boston losing the game.
"Porzingis (BOS) is above the ball and legally contests Mathurin's (IND) shot attempt, with some incidental arm contact occurring concurrent with the block. Referees conducted a replay review to determine if the foul was called with no time remaining on the clock (00:00), and determined it was called before the expiration of time. The clock was reset with 0.6 remaining on the clock. The foul itself was not a reviewable matter under this replay trigger."
Lastly, the league also determined that there was a missed foul call on Pacers big man Myles Turner for an illegal screen on C's guard Derrick White with two seconds remaining prior to Mathurian's 3-point attempt.
It was a frustrating ending to an otherwise good game and despite the loss for Boston, Brown scored a season-high 40 points with Jayson Tatum out due to an ankle injury, while Indiana pulled off a rally without Tyrese Haliburton -- who sustained a hamstring strain in the second quarter and had be carried off the floor.
Still, Brown and Mazzulla were very vocal on the subject that may lead to league fines -- especially when it comes to criticizing officials, to which Brown believes won't happen in this case.
"I feel like we've got the right to be upset, and the league should understand, of course we're going to say something about it after the game. So, I don't think there should be any fines. But I definitely think that one should be investigated."
The Celtics will return to TD Garden, where they remain unbeaten at 17-0, to host the Minnesota Timberwolves (25-10) Wednesday night.
Photo used courtesy of Getty Images
Photo used courtesy of Getty Images