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NBA says Mitchell’s desperation rating shouldn’t have counted


(AP) – Donovan Mitchell sent the best game of his profession to additional time with an incredible play.

Somewhat too incredible, the NBA said.

Mitchell’s desperation basket that forced additional time — off an intentionally missed free throw — and prolonged what became his 71-point effort for the Cleveland Cavaliers of their 145-134 victory over the Chicago Bulls shouldn’t have counted, the NBA said Tuesday.

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The rationale: Mitchell stepped “over the plane of the free throw line before the ball touches the basket ring,” the league said in its publicly released report that assesses calls made by officials within the last two minutes of the fourth quarter and additional time of games that were inside three points or less.

Players who’re shooting a free throw cannot go over the foul line until the ball reaches the basket cylinder. It’s a violation, the shot wouldn’t have counted, and Chicago must have been given possession with 4.7 seconds remaining and the Bulls leading 130-128.

Bulls coach Billy Donovan knew Monday night that it was a violation, and predicted the league’s Last Two Minute Report would prove him right. The league has used the reports for years as a type of accountability and transparency, but outcomes of games are usually not modified by the invention of a missed call after the very fact.

“It doesn’t do anything,” Donovan said. “It’s like, ‘We’re sorry.’ … That’s unlucky, because I assumed our guys battled and competed.”

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Mitchell intentionally missed the free throw because Cleveland was trailing by two points. He shot the ball perfectly off the back of the rim as he intended, went right into a crowd of players to grab the rebound, and scored with 3 seconds left to tie the sport.

That basket gave him 58 points, breaking Cleveland’s single-game record of 57 that was held by former Cavaliers stars LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, and wound up forcing the additional time.

Mitchell scored 13 more points in additional time. The 71 points are essentially the most within the NBA since Kobe Bryant had 81 on Jan. 22, 2006.

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