Donovan Mitchell’s incredible play forced the best game of his career into overtime.
The NBA thought it was a little too incredible.
Mitchell’s desperation basket, which forced overtime and extended his 71-point performance for the Cleveland Cavaliers in their 145-134 victory over the Chicago Bulls, should not have counted, according to the NBA on Tuesday.
The reason: Mitchell stepped “over the plane of the free throw line before the ball touches the basket ring,” according to the league’s publicly released report that evaluates calls made by officials in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter and overtime of games decided by three points or less.
Players shooting free throws are not allowed to cross the foul line until the ball reaches the basket cylinder. With 4.7 seconds remaining and the Bulls leading 130-128, it’s a violation, the shot would not have counted, and Chicago should have been given possession.
Bulls coach Billy Donovan knew it was a violation on Monday night and predicted the league’s Last Two Minute Report would back him up. The league has used the reports for years as a form of accountability and transparency, but the discovery of a missed call after the fact does not change the outcome of a game.
“It does nothing,” Donovan said. “It’s as if they’re saying, ‘We’re sorry.’… That’s a shame, because I thought our guys fought and competed well.”
Mitchell made the free throw on purpose because Cleveland trailed by two points. He shot the ball perfectly off the back of the rim, went into the crowd to grab the rebound, and scored with 3 seconds left to tie the game.
That basket gave him 58 points, breaking Cleveland’s single-game record of 57 held by former Cavaliers LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, and forcing overtime.
Mitchell added 13 points in overtime. The 71 points are the most in NBA history since Kobe Bryant scored 81 on January 22, 2006.