Raptors get robbed

FRANK ZICARELLI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:42 AM ET

ATLANTA -- In the end, time wasn't on the side of the Raptors.

And neither, it seems, was a member of the three-man officiating crew.

For what it's worth, the Raptors are expected to file an official protest to the NBA's league offices, perhaps as early as today, in the wake of a late-game sequence that deprived the Raptors of a win and of clinching a post-season berth.

The host Hawks would eventually prevail in a wild 127-120 overtime win.

With five-tenths of a second left in regulation of a 107-107 game, the Raptors called a timeout with the final possession.

Carlos Delfino inbounded the ball in a play that began just in front of Atlanta's bench. Raptors coaches drew up a play using a set of screens and picks.

Delfino lofted the ball toward the basket, where an unguarded T.J. Ford caught and scored for what appeared to be a buzzer-beating basket.

After a review, the basket was waived off, even though replays clearly show that one-tenth of a second had elapsed before Ford touched the ball.

For the past seven-odd years, the NBA has had game officials wear a precision timing pack to eliminate any perception of home-court bias.

One of Mark Wunderlich, Jack Nies or Eric Lewis appeared to have started the clock prematurely.

When the officials huddled to review the play, all they did was confirm the ball not leaving Ford's hands in time.

The question, though, is whether the clock started on time.

The timing system is designed to identify the official who started the clock.

"I thought the basket was good,'' Raptors head coach Sam Mitchell said. "And the official called it good.

"It looked like an early clock to me."

Mitchell's assertion was verified when he gathered his staff post-game inside the locker room to review the play on video.

"Whatever complaint we can file, we'll do that and leave it to the powers that be,'' he said.

Ford wasn't about to celebrate his apparent game-winning basket because he wasn't sure whether it was good or not.

"All I did was catch it and lay it up,'' he said."

Philips Arena hasn't been too kind to Ford, who was sidelined two months back in December following an Al Horford flagrant foul.

Two years ago, a Ford basket wasn't even counted, the result of a scoring error that followed a brief power failure.

Earlier this season in Atlanta, officials erroneously gave Shaquille O'Neal, then of the Miami Heat, an extra foul with 51.9 seconds remaining.

The Raptors, meanwhile, never should have been in the position of drawing up a game-winning play.

They led by as many as 17 points in the third quarter and held on to a three-point lead with 3.8 seconds left in regulation.

Mike Bibby buried a three-ball from the left pocket with Ford trying to guard the veteran.

In hindsight, the Raptors should have committed a foul.

"He's a veteran and he threw me off with his pump fake,'' Ford said of Bibby.

It was one of many dizzying moments.

"We really shouldn't have been in this situation at the end of the game,'' Chris Bosh said. "With a 17-point lead, we knew they'd make a run.

"When you're on the road playing in a tough environment, you have to execute."


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