SECAUCUS, N.J. — Ray Allen’s 3-pointer in Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals did more than cost the San Antonio Spurs a championship.
It cost referee Joe Crawford money.
And if the Spurs scored on the next possession and won the title, it could have caused the NBA a massive headache — and possibly led the Miami Heat to file a protest while San Antonio was celebrating.
Crawford revealed that the referees incorrectly allowed Tim Duncan to enter the game during a video review following Allen’s tying basket, a rules violation that led to a fine for the officiating crew.
"That’s the way it should be. You screwed it up, you screwed it up," Crawford said during an interview at the NBA’s Replay Center. "We just lucked out."
Allen’s 3-pointer from the corner with 5.2 seconds left in regulation tied it at 95. Referee Mike Callahan told Crawford he wanted to review the play to make sure Allen was behind the arc, though Crawford thought he clearly was.
"I said, ‘He’s behind the line like this,"’ Crawford said, holding his hands a few inches apart. "And he says, ‘I want to check.’ He says, ‘It’s too important.’ So I said, ‘All right.’
"So we go over and what happens, Duncan came in the game and he’s not allowed to come in the game. So he came in the game, thank God he didn’t score a bucket. That would have been awful."
Actually, it may not have mattered if it was Duncan. Any Spurs player could have scored and the Heat would have been able to protest that the Spurs had an illegal player in the game — a protest that would have had a good chance of being upheld and forced the game to be replayed from that point.
But after Duncan replaced Boris Diaw and inbounded the ball on San Antonio’s final possession, Tony Parker missed a jumper that would have given the Spurs the championship. The Heat pulled it out in overtime and won Game 7 to take the title.
By the time Crawford left the arena that night, he already knew he was going to hear from his bosses over the illegal substitution.
"You know you’re in trouble," he said. "You’re very happy that you got through the game and you’re not, you really weren’t the focal point of the game. But what happens is everybody is texting and emailing back and forth, and (saying), ‘Joe, you know that Duncan got in the game."’
Crawford had already lost money because of Duncan before, when he ejected the Spurs star while he was laughing on the bench in a 2007 game and was suspended for the rest of that season. This time, Crawford was all too happy to part with the money, knowing how much worse it could have turned out.
"I’ll pay the fine. No, no, no. I’ll pay that fine," Crawford said, joking that he told Callahan he should pay it for him for ordering the review.
Crawford couldn’t remember the exact amount of the fine, and the NBA doesn’t reveal it. But he understands why the league has to issue penalties for misses like that one.
"It’s no joke here," he said. "When you blow a rule it’s a protest, so that’s why you study it."