In the final seconds of last night’s game between the Phoenix Suns and the Houston Rockets, Jermaine O’Neal was whistled for goaltending at the buzzer on a James Harden three-pointer which ultimately gave Houston the win with a bow on top.
“It was off the rim, for sure,” O’Neal said. “He (Jones) is saying it was still in the cylinder when I did it. The problem is that they called goaltend and counted the basket before they did the review. So there’s not enough evidence to change the call. You should make sure that’s the call you should make, and it should be clarified before you say, `Basket counts.”
Bottom line, clearly O’Neal affected the shot, and it was indeed goaltending.
Here’s the thing, O’Neal is a veteran, a veteran who’s been in the league for a 16-years, a veteran who possesses relatively high basketball-IQ. The buzzer had already sounded, he had no reason to touch the basketball, he knows better.
Some may call or think it’s a brain fart but there are reasons to believe it was intentional. O’Neal knows better. O’Neal didn’t need to touch that ball, it wasn’t going to go in, and all he had to do was box-out 6’1 point guard Patrick Beverely(Who was fighting O’Neal for the rebound), O’Neal didn’t need to jump with him; I doubt O’Neal would have problems boxing out the 6-foot guard.
Alex Kennedy of HoopsWorld tweeted this yesterday after the game: “Jermaine O’Neal brain fart or Phoenix Suns tank job?”
Jared Dudley tweeted this after the game “Wow!! I never lost a game like that before in my life.. Just one of those seasons I guess..”
Maybe J.D is right and it’s just one of those New York Jet like seasons but the O’Neal goaltending play was certainly sketchy. The Suns are in competition with the Cleveland Cavaliers for the third worst overall record in the NBA which essentially means the third best chance to win the lottery in May.
“They called three or four calls late in the game that helped determine the outcome of the game,” O’Neal said.
Had the Suns beat the Rockets last night, there would only be a 1/2 game separating the Suns and Cavaliers in the standings given that the Cleveland lost to the Pacers last night.
The Suns are 1 1/2 games behind of the Cavaliers right now in the overall standings as the Suns are ahead of the Bobcats and Magic in terms of winning percentage. That means if the season ended tonight, the Suns would have the third best chance in the lottery. The Cavaliers have five games remaining on their season against the Pistons, Knicks, Sixers, Heat and the Bobcats to close out their season.
Was O’Neal’s goaltending intentional? Tough to say, but one can certainly make a case for it.