The Shove That Shook The East
PHILADELPHIA - While the Washington Wizards managed to win on Monday without Agent Zero, the Cleveland Cavaliers pilfered a win in Philadelphia with the help of The Big Z Hero.
Zydrunas Ilgauskas's left elbow did more than send Samuel Dalembert stumbling into Devin Brown in the final second of the Cleveland Cavaliers' controversial 91-90 win against the Philadelphia 76ers on Monday.
It shook up the entire Eastern Conference playoff picture.
The Wizards no longer have a chance to win the fourth seed in the playoffs because officials at Wachovia Center chose to make the right call after ignoring several others that led up to it.
In the end, the 76ers were smarting because they won the game - and still lost. How did that happen? After Dalembert made what appeared to be a game-saving block with 0.9 seconds left, Ilgauskas shoved him into Brown. The Sixers center was then called for a personal foul with 0.2 seconds remaining that sent Brown to the foul line for the decisive free throws.
The loss, combined with Toronto's win against Miami last night, also locked Philadelphia into the seventh seed and a first round meeting with the Detroit Pistons. "You feel like you just got seriously slapped in the face," Philadelphia forward Andre Iguodala said. "It was like we had the 'W' and it was marked off."
Said, point guard Andre Miller: "It's real tough when they decided a game like that. You have to live with it. It's one game."
But it was one extremely costly game for the Sixers and the Wizards, who will open the playoffs in Cleveland for the third year in a row. It might really be huge if Cleveland and Washington have to play a Game 7 at Quicken Loans Arena as opposed to the Verizon Center. And it could also be the difference between the Sixers being around in the playoffs for five games against Detroit or possibly six games or seven games against Orlando.
Here's how it went down: The Sixers led 90-89 after Louis Williams drilled an incredible, 22-foot fadeaway jump shot with 5.1 seconds remaining. The Cavaliers called timeout and set up a play for - who else? - LeBron James.
James took the inbounds pass, and charged toward the basket. He appeared to get nudged by Andre Iguodala, then bumped into Williams. As James went up for a shot, Dalembert jumped to contest it and swatted it the opposite direction.
Brown corralled the ball and went straight up, when Dalembert came diving at him head first. Brown's shot came up well short. As the buzzer sounded, the Sixers players started celebrating and heading toward the locker room. A referee waved off Brown's shot and the fans started cheering loudly. Through all the noise, no one seemed to notice or hear that referee Greg Willard had blown his whistle.
"There's contact on the play by Dalembert," Willard told a pool reporter after the game. "Any time you have a play at the end of the period, that's reviewable, which is field goals and fouls, we go over and review them regardless. It's not a matter of whether somebody waved it off."
There is no debating that Dalembert ran into Brown while he was attempting a shot before time expired, but the referees ignored the fact that there is no way that Dalembert could've fouled Brown without a little help. He jumped straight up and down, yet his momentum somehow sent him rolling forward? Uh no. The Big Z Hero pushed him. Dalembert was adamant after the game.
"After I jumped and I blocked the shot and I got pushed. Ilgauskas pushed me and I was off-balance," Dalembert said. "You can see on the play, his forearm. He pushed me in the air."
Replays after the game support Dalembert's claim. After he blocked James's shot, Dalembert landed in front of Ilgauskas and Ilgauskas shoved Dalembert off of him. Asked about the push after the game, Ilgauskas pled amnesia after a reporter told him that Dalembert got hit with an elbow.
"Really? I don't know," Ilgauskas said.
Ilgauskas was then reminded that he was the one who delivered the elbow.
"Who me? To Dalembert? I don't remember that," Ilgauskas said, adding that he and Dalembert had bumped heads at the beginning of play, which may have damaged his memory. "I couldn't see much. I had tears coming out of both eyes. I saw a couple of stars."
Dalembert was out of sorts as well. He bounced off of Brown and wobbled to the basket support, where he rubbed his head. He was hurting, but happy. "I was thinking, 'Oh, yes, we won the game," Dalembert said. "I was so excited."
Then, his face began to scrunch up. Did the officials really call a foul? You can understand LeBron James getting a foul called in the final second. He's a superstar. Superstars get calls, often bogus ones, in the final seconds. But Devin Brown?
After the game, Brown admitted that he was shocked to have the call go in his favor.
"I wear 33," Brown said, "not 23."
Most of the Sixers were already gone while the officials huddled at halfcourt for several minutes. Some members of the Cavaliers leaned over their shoulders trying to sneak a peak. Unfortunately for the Sixers, Ilgauskas's push could not be reviewed. When the referees determined that Brown would be given two free throws with 0.2 seconds remaining, the crowd booed loudly and the Sixers had to get summoned back from the locker room.
"What can you do?" Dalembert said. "I didn't think they would go back and try to pinpoint that [foul on Brown]. If they were going to call the foul before that [when Ilgauskas pushed him], I would've said okay. There is so much stuff you can say. You can say [James] traveled on the play. You can say I got pushed. You can say a lot of stuff."
Miller attempted to psyche out Brown before the free throws by walking in front of him. Brown calmly sank both shots and the crowd booed some more.
After Williams missed a desperation heave at the buzzer, Miller grabbed the ball and punted it into air. He watched it soar high above the Jumbotron. When the ball landed again, Miller hurled the ball into the stands. It was fan appreciation night, but surely the Philly fans would've taken the win over the souvenir basketball.
I thought the fans were going to storm the court in protest, or at least throw stuff, because this was, after all, Philadelphia. But they were rather subdued to be so upset. Iguodala was among several players crying foul. He waved off the officials and shook his head as he left the floor.
"We didn't know they were going to review it," Miller said. "I thought the game was over. I was taking off my ankle braces. We had the win but the refs brought us back and reviewed it. That's the decision they made."
Current Cleveland and former Philadelphia guard Eric Snow was hanging out in his old locker room, talking to some his former teammates after the game, when Dalembert emerged from the training room with a huge lump on the left side of his forehead.
"Quit fouling," Snow told him.
Dalembert glared at Snow and grabbed a towel.
"You fouled out on the play, too," Snow said, shaking his head and smiling.
Dalembert shouted back, "You guys can't beat us. We deserved to win this game."
That may have been true, but the Sixers still lost. And so did the Wizards.
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