The Miami Heat's season is on the brink. And it got there thanks to an inexplicable no-call at the end of Game 5 from the referees on a blatant foul against Dwyane Wade.
With 4.5 seconds remaining in the game and Miami down by two, Goran Dragic saw his three-point attempt blocked by Kemba Walker. The ball ricocheted into the air, where Wade grabbed it, turned, took off into the air, and attacked the basket.
But Wade was met at the rim by that talking tree creature from the Lord of the Rings and bludgeoned by the extended branch-like arms of Hornets center Cody Zeller. At the same time, Wade was also hacked by Courtney Lee.
Wade collapsed, the Hornets grabbed the loose ball, no foul was called, and the game was essentially over. Hornets 90-Heat 88.
Now the Heat is down 3-2 in a series that Miami once dominated, with the looming reality of playing an elimination game on the road this Friday.
So let's take a closer look at Wade being mugged like a clown with free bags of candy at a 5-year-old's birthday party.
First off, as he attacked the basket, Wade was basically ambushed by Zeller and Lee at the rim.
On initial viewing, one could argue that Zeller used the verticality rule, where a defender who's standing straight, with his arms extended up into the air, has the right of way over an oncoming offensive player.
Yet a look at the replay shows Zeller's gargoyle arms extended forward like Frankenstein's. Moreover, Lee's help defense involved swiping at the basketball but banging Wade's forearm instead. It all happened fast, but not so fast that it wasn't seen as a blatant foul by most.
Both Zeller and Lee converged on Wade as he tried to contort his body and get off a shot. There was bodily contact from both defenders, while Zeller was clearly not standing straight up, and Lee treated Wade's forearm like a samurai does a head of lettuce.
The result here should have been maybe three seconds placed on the clock and Wade at the stripe with a chance to tie the game.
Wade has built a championship career out of throwing his body into swarming defenders and flailing arms like this in order to draw fouls.
It's the kind of call any aggressive player would get, let alone a superstar like Wade.
Yet in this one instance, the officials gave a lanky third-year doofus the benefit of the doubt over a three-time champion and future Hall of Famer.
"He was fouled," Erik Spoelstra straight-up told reporters following the game. “Look, it never is decided by those plays, but from my vantage point, Dwyane certainly looked like he got fouled.”
Making the non-call even more egregious is that the Hornets have benefited from the referees' blowing their whistles against the Heat in this series for similar infractions.
No one in this series has seen fouls of this nature called in their favor more than Jeremy Lin, who has been aggressive in his attacks at the rim all series long.
Lin scored a good chunk of his points in Game 4 from the free-throw line after drawing fouls on the same types of plays Wade attempted.
Like here, against Amar'e Stoudemire:
And here, against Hassan Whiteside:
Both of those plays were called fouls. Both times Lin was bumped in the paint by a center — verticality rule be damned.
In fact, in that second screenshot, Whiteside is more vertical than Zeller was against Wade Wednesday night. Lin got the slasher's benefit pretty much every time.
Yet Wade, who has made a habit of demolishing Lin throughout the years and was well on his way to ripping that ludicrous man-bun off Lin's head and sewing it to his asshole, is evidently not as important. At home. In a crucial spot.
Now we're not here to say this one non-call wrecked the game for Miami. As we discussed after Game 4, the officiating is not the reason the Heat is knee-deep in rhinoceros shit.
There have been other factors that contributed to this loss — such as the Hornets finally finding their mojo and hitting their three-pointers. And Courtney Lee's crucial offensive rebound and three-pointer with 25 seconds. And that weird hybrid offense the Heat decided to go with to start the second half. And the Heat being a sack of old-man testicles from the three-point arc. And Joe Johnson remaining a can of baked ass.
All of these things are ample reasons for Wednesday's loss and impending elimination from the playoffs.
During crucial stretches throughout the past three games, a pattern has clearly emerged: The Heat has forgotten how to play defense and has gone all Ted Cruz and begun calling the hoop a "basketball ring."
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But while it's one thing to get ambushed by a cabal of fire-belching three-point sharpshooters in a tied series, it's quite another when your superstar player is being turned into a human piñata on his own home court in the deciding moments of the game with the referees deciding that Cory Zeller and Courtney Lee were Tupac holograms.
So, yes, the Heat players have to look themselves in the mirror for being in this position.
But the refs doing nothing while Wade gets fouled so hard he's knocked into a metaphysical realm where hamburgers eat people is incompetent.
And it may have cost Miami the season.