LeBron James' game-saving block may have actually been a violation that the refs missed

  • LeBron James made a game-saving block on Victor Oladipo on Wednesday before hitting the game-winning three-pointer.
  • Replays showed that James might have touched the ball after it had already hit the backboard, making it goaltending, though it was a close call.
  • Referees could not review the play because they had not called it goaltending when the play occurred.


LeBron James played hero for the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday, coming up with a block on Victor Oladipo's go-ahead layup attempt with three second left, then burying a game-winning three-pointer as time expired.

The sequence will make James' greatest hits playlist when his career is done, but upon further inspection, his block on Oladipo might have been a missed call by the refs.

A close look at the block appears to show the ball hitting the backboard first before James touched it. That would have made it a goaltend, putting the Pacers up 97-95 with three seconds to play.

Because the refs did not rule it a goaltend when the play occurred, they could not review the play.

Of course, James' game-winning three might make the point moot, but if the Pacers led by two going into the final possession, things might have turned out differently. For instance, the Cavs might have gone for a two-point shot to play it safe in an attempt to tie the game. Or if they were going for three, the Pacers might have played them a little tighter on the perimeter, knowing they could only lose with one type of shot.

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The best photos from the first round of the NBA playoffs
CLEVELAND, OH - APRIL 15: JR Smith #5 of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Cory Joseph #6 of the Indiana Pacers drive for a ball during the first half in Game One of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2018 NBA Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena on April 15, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - APRIL 14: C.J. Miles #0 of the Toronto Raptors celebrates after making a three-pointer as rap artist Drake celebrates on the sideline against the Washington Wizards in the first quarter during Game One of the first round of the 2018 NBA Playoffs at Air Canada Centre on April 14, 2018 in Toronto, Canada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - APRIL 15: Jeff Teague #0 of the Minnesota Timberwolves goes up for a shot defended by Clint Capela #15 of the Houston Rockets and Chris Paul #3 in the second half during Game One of the first round of the 2018 NBA Playoffs at Toyota Center on April 15, 2018 in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - APRIL 15: Terry Rozier #12 of the Boston Celtics celebrates with Jayson Tatum #0 after hitting a three point shot during the fourth quarter of Game One of Round One of the 2018 NBA Playoffs against the Milwaukee Bucks during at TD Garden on April 15, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Apr 14, 2018; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Washngton Wizards guard Bradley Beal (3) dunks for a basket against Toronto Raptors in game one of the first round of the 2018 NBA Playoffs at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
BOSTON, MA - APRIL 17: Milwaukee Bucks Tony Snell, left, gets rid of the ball in front of the Boston Celtics Greg Monroe, right, in first half action in Game Two of the Eastern Conference First Round during the 2018 NBA Playoffs at the TD Garden in Boston on April 17, 2018. (Photo by Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
Apr 19, 2018; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs small forward Davis Bertans (left) and Golden State Warriors power forward David West (3) battle for a rebound in game three of the first round of the 2018 NBA Playoffs at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Apr 19, 2018; Miami, FL, USA; Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21) warms up prior to game three of the first round of the 2018 NBA Playoffs against the Miami Heatat American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Apr 19, 2018; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis (23) dunks over Portland Trail Blazers forward Al-Farouq Aminu (8) during the second quarter in game three of the first round of the 2018 NBA Playoffs at the Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Apr 19, 2018; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs shooting guard Manu Ginobili (20) dives for the loose ball Golden State Warriors small forward Kevon Looney (left) in game three of the first round of the 2018 NBA Playoffs at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
SAN ANTONIO,TX - APRIL 22 : Manu Ginobili #20 of the San Antonio Spurs drives on Quinn Cook #4 of the Golden State Warriors during the first half of Game Four of Round One of the 2018 NBA Playoffs at AT&T Center on April 22 , 2018 in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that , by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images)
Apr 19, 2018; Miami, FL, USA; Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21) warms up prior to game three of the first round of the 2018 NBA Playoffs against the Miami Heatat American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - APRIL 20: Myles Turner #33 and Bojan Bogdanovic #44 of the Indiana Pacers celebrate at the end of game three of the NBA Playoffs against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on April 20, 2018 in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Pacers won 92-90. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using the photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
SALT LAKE CITY, UT - APRIL 21: Russell Westbrook #0 of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Donovan Mitchell #45 of the Utah Jazz go for the ball in the second half during Game Three of Round One of the 2018 NBA Playoffs at Vivint Smart Home Arena on April 21, 2018 in Salt Lake City, Utah. The Jazz beat the Thunder 115-102. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - APRIL 24: Marcus Smart #36 of the Boston Celtics competes for a loose ball against Giannis Antetokounmpo #34 of the Milwaukee Bucks and Thon Maker #7 during the fourth quarter in Game Five in Round One of the 2018 NBA Playoffs at TD Garden on April 24, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Celtics defeat the Bucks 92-87. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - APRIL 25: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers is showered with water while being interviewed after a 98-95 win over the Indiana Pacers in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2018 NBA Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena on April 25, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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James could argue the missed goaltend call was vindication anyway. On the play right before his block, James turned the ball over when he dribbled out of bounds. However, James had argued that the ball was poked out of his hands, then hit the baseline before he touched it. Referees didn't review it, and the Pacers got the ball.

James' heroics helped the Cavs take a 3-2 series lead as they head to Indiana for Game 6.

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