After 17 minutes, decision was made

Published: Monday, January 20, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 19, 2003 at 10:46 p.m.

INDIANAPOLIS - The NBA rule book says instant replay reviews must be conducted and processed in two minutes or fewer.

The Indiana Pacers and Detroit Pistons could have played an entire quarter in the time it took officials to decide whether Jermaine O'Neal's final shot should have counted Saturday night.

After O'Neal's 19-foot jumper in the final second went through the net to apparently give the Pacers an 88-86 victory, he immediately turned to the scorer's table.

With teammate Reggie Miller celebrating by hanging on O'Neal's back and the raucous cheering of a sellout crowd in O'Neal's ears, he wanted to see what the officials were up to.

It wasn't surprising that they were reviewing his shot - after all, the NBA instituted instant replay this season, joining the NFL and NHL. What was stunning was just how many minutes elapsed.

``We just kept waiting and wondering what was taking so long,'' O'Neal said after his shot was ruled good, giving the Pacers the victory. ``We didn't think there was much of a dispute.''

The NFL has had its share of officiating disputes in the current playoffs. Now it was the NBA's turn, with the first extended delay at the end of a game. The crew of Joe DeRosa, Jess Kersey and Courtney Kirkland took 17 minutes to decide if O'Neal released his shot in time.

``They exceeded the allotted amount of time for the replay. From that standpoint, we wish that they had handled it differently,'' NBA Senior VP Stu Jackson said in a telephone interview Sunday. ``The officials should have confined themselves to the allotted time.''

Jackson spoke with the three officials Sunday. He said they will be reprimanded but not punished.

The NBA's new instant replay rule allows officials to review plays in the final seconds of a quarter.

The rule states: ``Instant replay reviews will be conducted and processed in two minutes or less by the game officials. The call made during play will only be reversed when the replay provides the officials with a clear and conclusive basis to do so.''

There must not have been too much that was ``clear and conclusive'' Saturday, given how long the replay was studied.

Not surprisingly, Pacers coach Isiah Thomas didn't mind the wait.

``I thought they were very diligent. I thought they were very thorough,'' the Hall of Famer said. ``At the end of the day, the video confirms their decision. We know for sure it was a good shot.''

In general, Jackson is pleased with how the first half-season with the new rule has gone. Of more than 200 reviews, only nine calls have been overturned, Jackson said.

``Twenty-four seconds had not expired off the game clock before the ball was released from his hands,'' DeRosa told a pool reporter Saturday night. ``So, therefore, the basket was good, and it was not a shot-clock violation.''

The Pacers inbounded the ball with 24.1 seconds left in the game and the score tied at 86.

Miller, matched up with defender Jon Barry on the left wing, dribbled and stared at the clock. With about six seconds left, he dribbled to his right and passed to Erick Strickland.

Strickland drove to the basket, ran into a double team and kicked the ball out to O'Neal. O'Neal was wide open just to the right of the free-throw line and hit the jump shot.

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