The Boston Celtics held on to defeat the Atlanta Hawks and advance to the second round of the 2012 NBA Playoffs, but they may have gotten away with a poor call by the officials in the closing seconds of the game. The Hawks had the ball down by two points with 3.1 seconds remaining and were inbounding the ball on the baseline, and he officials whistled Celtics Marquis Daniels for a foul holding Al Horford.
Now, here's where it gets interesting.
At first glance, the foul may have occurred before the ball was thrown in. Here's what the NBA rulebook says about the situation.
a. During the last two minutes of the fourth period or overtime period(s) with the offensive team in possession of the ball, all personal fouls which are assessed against the defensive team prior to the ball being released on a throw-in and/or away-from-the-play, shall be administered as follows:
(1) A personal foul and team foul shall be assessed and one free throw attempt shall be awarded. The free throw may be attempted by any play-er in the game at the time the personal foul was committed.
(2) If the foul occurs when the ball is inbounds, the offended team shall be awarded the ball at the nearest point where play was interrupted but no nearer to the baseline than the free throw line extended.
(3) If the foul occurs prior to the release on a throw-in, the offended team shall be awarded the ball at the original throw-in spot, with all privileges, if any, remaining.
Basically: if the foul was deemed to be before the ball was inbounded, the Hawks should have received one free throw and the ball. If it was deemed to be as the ball was being thrown in, the Hawks would simply have to throw in again.
So, which is it? Here's video.
As you can see, Marvin Williams clearly has not made a motion to throw the ball in, and Daniels is holding Horford. That would seem to indicate that the Hawks should have gotten one free throw and the ball. On the other hand, let's fast-forward one second to the six-minute mark.
Horford is still being fouled to your right, but Williams is currently inbounding the ball. If the foul was assessed here, and not at the five-second mark, then the referee's call was correct.
If, however, the foul was called at the five-second mark, as it should have been, the Hawks should have gotten a free throw and the ball. That means that, while it's close, the Hawks probably got a raw deal here.
Edit: The NBA admitted the foul should've been off-the-ball, as explained above.