ATLANTA - For the first time since 1982, the NBA is sending two teams back to the court for a do-over.
The Atlanta Hawks and Miami Heat must replay the final 51.9 seconds of their game last month because the official scorer ruled incorrectly that Shaquille O’Neal fouled out, the league said Friday.
The Hawks won 117-111 at home in overtime Dec. 19, but strike that one from the books. For now, playoff-contending Atlanta has one less win, while the Heat have one less loss on their hapless record.
“We’re human. We make mistakes,” Hawks owner Michael Gearon Jr. said. “There certainly wasn’t anything malicious about it. We have one of the most senior scoring staffs in the league. They’re good. It happened. There’s not much we can do about it.”
Making it a truly miserable day: Atlanta followed up NBA commissioner David Stern’s decision by losing to Washington 102-98 in overtime.
The NBA said the replay will be held before Miami’s next visit to Atlanta on March 8. Play will start from the time after O’Neal’s disputed sixth foul, with the Hawks leading 114-111.
“Wait a minute! I picked up a win today, or lost a loss,” Heat coach Pat Riley quipped in New Orleans before a 114-88 loss to the Hornets. “I can wake up tomorrow knowing there’s one less loss.”
The Hawks also were fined $50,000, with commissioner David Stern ruling the team was “grossly negligent” in failing to address the mistake.
The protest is the first granted by the NBA since December 1982, when then-NBA commissioner Larry O’Brien upheld a request for a replay by the San Antonio Spurs after their 137-132 double-overtime loss to the Los Angeles Lakers the previous month.
The Spurs and Lakers finally finished the game in April 1983, with San Antonio winning 117-114.
The Hawks were caught off guard by Stern’s ruling, feeling he was trying to send a message in light of another scoring mistake that occurred in Atlanta early last season.
“Come on,” Gearon said. “You can see how many times coaches, assistant coaches and trainers walk up to (the scoring table) during a game. They’re walking up there for a reason. They’re asking questions, whether it’s confirming timeout or points or other issues.”
Team spokesman Arthur Triche said no one on the stat crew had been replaced, but changes have been made in the way they operate. Two people run the official book at courtside, while the four-person computer stat crew is 26 rows above the court in another press location. The two crews are supposed to check with each other if any discrepancies come up.
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
“While it was an honest mistake made on the table, there was a communication breakdown in not following through the procedures that are in place,” Triche said. “That’s why we’re in this predicament.”
The Hawks were leading 112-111 in overtime when O’Neal was called for a foul. The official scorers said it was the Miami center’s sixth foul, when actually it was only his fifth.
The mistake stemmed from a foul with 3:24 remaining in the fourth quarter that was called on Udonis Haslem but was mistakenly credited to O’Neal at the scoring table.
“That’s crazy, man! I don’t even think I can play because I fouled out,” Atlanta’s Josh Smith said. “David Stern is the head honcho, so if he says we’ve got to play another 51 seconds that’s what we’ve got to play. Bottom line.”
Stern ruled the Hawks “failed to follow league-mandated scoring procedures and failed to respond effectively when the members of the statisticians’ crew noticed the mistake,” the NBA said in a statement.
Said Haslem: “I’m not the kind of guy who likes to argue or cry over spilled milk, but we’ve got a second chance so we’ll try to make the best of it.”
While the Heat are having an awful season, dropping back to 8-28 before the day was done to remain last in the Eastern Conference, the decision could have a profound impact on Atlanta’s hopes of making the playoffs for the first time since 1999.
The Pacers defeated the Heat 97-93 in Game 2 to even the series at 1-1, which now shifts to Indiana.
PBT: Pacers coach Frank Vogel said that the Heat have a more effective plan of attack against Roy Hibbert than the Knicks.
Video: NBA from NBC Sports
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