Suns’ Monty Williams given clarification after clock malfunction

Oct 29, 2019, 3:53 PM | Updated: 6:09 pm
Phoenix Suns head coach Monty Williams reacts during the second half of an NBA basketball game agai...

Phoenix Suns head coach Monty Williams reacts during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Utah Jazz, Monday, Oct. 28, 2019, in Phoenix. The Jazz won 96-95. (AP Photo/Matt York)

(AP Photo/Matt York)

PHOENIX — Phoenix Suns head coach Monty Williams said after Monday night’s 96-95 loss to the Utah Jazz that he was going to have to have a talk with the league office when there appeared to be a clock malfunction.

Devin Booker fouled Donovan Mitchell with at least a second remaining on the clock, but the hiccup had it all the way down to 0.4 seconds remaining. As Ricky Rubio would go on to say after the game, there is a large amount of significance in the Suns getting an extra second on the clock when down a point or two.

Phoenix still had a timeout, meaning they could advance the ball to half-court off a make or miss and get a decent look.

The NBA’s last two minutes report released on Tuesday afternoon came to a consensus of 1.2 seconds left, and Williams said when the team looked at it they saw 1.8.

Williams wanted the officials to review the play and give the Suns the extra time. He was not granted that request. There was also confusion as to whether Williams could use the coach’s challenge on the play, which he wasn’t sure of either.

After practice on Tuesday, Williams said he had that conversation and figured out what the ruling was.

“I wanted them to look at it and the way that they explained it if I’m correctly getting it straight is they can only look at it if the clock goes all the way down (to zero),” he said. “There’s another option but that was the one way that they can go back over there and look at it.”

Williams also received clarity on the status of a coach’s challenge in that instance.

“The reality is you can challenge the foul but you can’t challenge the clock,” he said. “You can challenge the foul to get the clock looked at. And it’s a tough challenge because you only have one timeout.”

Because Booker’s foul on Mitchell was obvious on the replay, even if the refs would have seen the clock was wrong on the review, the time would not have been changed because the foul call would have stood and that’s what Williams was able to challenge.

“It wasn’t the officials’ fault. It’s just a gray area. Because of the situation it was like a perfect storm of gray,” he said.

In the league’s last two minutes report, there was an explanation that backed up what Williams had said.

The whistle occurs at 00:01.2, and officials do not see that the game clock continues to run to 00:00.4. Officials cannot use instant replay to review clock malfunctions unless the clock runs to 00:00.0.

The language chosen by the NBA to say that the “officials do not see that the game clock continues to run” indicates that the referees could have made a change had they realized the clock differential. Officials use precision timing on their whistles, meaning that when they blow the whistles, the clock stops. With hindsight, there was obviously too much delay in that system, anywhere between 0.8-to-1.4 seconds depending on the replay you get.

Suns general manager James Jones said on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station’s Burns & Gambo that the snafu was not on the clock operator and the whistle system was functioning properly. Which, if it wasn’t and there was too much of a delay beyond 0.5 seconds, they will go off real-time of the clock operator.

So the further down the rabbit hole you get of trying to figure out the logistics of this, the less clear and more confusing it gets.

Either way, what’s become apparent is that the Suns’ new brand of physical defense, a good one at that, needs to earn the respect of the referees.

They have now had 35, 34 and 31 fouls in their last three games. Phoenix has definitely earned most of those fouls but roughly 20% less than they’ve been called for, probably more.

Getting that respect was a talking point out of the loss last night.

Williams didn’t have a clear-cut answer as to how the Suns improve on that but provided some of his own perspective on how something so niche and specific within the webbing of everyday NBA can change.

“I don’t know,” he said about consistency defensively bringing more of a benefit of the doubt from refs. “(Hall of Fame head) coach (Jerry) Sloan used to say, ‘They can’t call ’em all’ but it doesn’t look like that’s working for us.

“I think we have to be smarter. It’s a different league where pace and space and freedom of movement is paramount. We have to make our adjustments in-game without losing our edge. I want to compete but I want to be smart. I want guys to have an edge but I don’t want us playing passive.”

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