heat vs. Celtics: Reversed Max Strus 3-pointer proves crucial in final moments of Game 7

Getty Images

Rarely can a single game in the third quarter drastically affect the outcome of a playoff game, but a shot by Max Strus in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals between Miami Heat and Boston Celtics might have been an exception. At 11:04 in the third quarter, Max Strus sank a three-pointer that narrowed a deficit once as high as 17 to two. Nearly three minutes later, as Robert Williams III was about to take a free throw, an announcement rang out in the background.

Strus’ three-pointer was swept off the board. Miami’s young sniper stepped outside the boundaries of the piece. When Williams went to the line, the Celtics were leading by eight. When he made his second free throw, they were up 13.

The review itself was unusual. While officials often use replay to turn a three-pointer into a two-pointer minutes later, it’s extremely rare for a shot to be completely wiped off the board. Here’s what makes the Strus even weirder: It’s not entirely clear that he even stepped outside the boundaries:

Keep an eye on that left heel. It certainly floats across the line… but does it actually touch it? I don’t know. The answer is maybe… or probably? A typical NBA game has a lot of “maybe” scattered around. It’s inevitable in a game with so many judgments. But “maybe” calls aren’t supposed to change. Replay should only be used if there is clear visual evidence that the call on the floor was incorrect. Subjectively, that doesn’t seem clear enough for a cover. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said he was ‘in shock’ about the phone call.

“The fact that it happened four, five minutes into playtime does change the context of how you play. … If it happens like that, it should happen immediately and then you can adjust accordingly.” Spoelstra said

The whole context of how Miami and Boston played the entire piece really prevents us from knowing how impactful the call was. Boston won the game by four points. Take away three and they theoretically still stand at one, but the whole end of the game changes once the Heat has three points left. Maybe Boston isn’t slowing everything down in his last possessions to kill the clock when it feels a more pressing need to add points. Of course Jimmy Butler probably won’t get 3 on a critical ball in the last minute if the Heat rises one instead of two in that scenario.

Spoelstra eventually admitted that the phone call was not solely responsible for the loss. “I don’t cry or whine”, Spoelstra said† ‘Come on. We are defeated.’ In the end he is right. Judgment calls affect every NBA game. It is up to both teams to respond to this as best they can. Boston did. Miami didn’t. That’s why the Celtics are going to the NBA Finals.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.