BOSTON - After beating the Boston Celtics in overtime Sunday, the Timberwolves went on to suffer an emotional 124-117 loss in double overtime at the TD Banknorth Garden.
To their cores, the Wolves believe that they earned a victory in 53 minutes that, to their dismay, slipped away in 58. The problem? Referee Violet Palmer's overturned or change-of-heart foul call with 15.1 seconds left in the first overtime that sent Wolves guard Ricky Davis to the line for three -- oops! -- two free throws and his team down 105-102.
Instead of being able to tie at that moment, Minnesota needed a last-ditch three-pointer from Kevin Garnett at 4.5 seconds just to make it 107-107 and force another five minutes.
And in that overtime, Boston outscored the Wolves 11-2 over the last 2:14. The Celtics had a 10-1 edge in foul shots in the second OT, part of a 46-23 edge overall, and outscored their guests by 17 on the freebies.
That was secondary, though, to the anger Wolves coach Randy Wittman and several players expressed over the ruling on Davis. And like so many of the great scandals in U.S. history, it wasn't so much the original act as it was the cover-up.
Consider this one Violetgate.
"It was a guess," Wittman said, borderline irate. "Violet had it as a three, and then I don't know what happened. So the other two [refs] had to have guessed. Because, obviously, everybody's watched it and it's not even close. And to guess, that's not right. That cost us a game."
Video replays -- which cannot be used by NBA refs except at the end of quarters, for clock issues -- showed that Davis leaped across the three-point line as Boston's Ryan Gomes fouled him. He launched the ball before he landed. And Palmer did raise one arm to signal a three-point shot.
The play took place near the Celtics bench, and the officials stepped farther onto the court for a huddle. That's when they ruled it a two-point shot. Per NBA policy, Palmer, Mike Callahan and David Guthrie declined to be interviewed by a pool reporter, calling it a "judgment call."
The huddle and reversal seemed to argue otherwise, but a league spokesman -- contacted by the Celtics' media relations department -- backed that decision not to explain.
That didn't stop the Wolves (26-33) -- who have dropped 10 of their past 11 road games -- from giving their version.
"I guess Violet changed the call," Davis said as he dressed.
Garnett interrupted from a few feet away: "Doc Rivers changed the call."
Said Davis, who led all scorers with a season-high 35 points: "Yeah, Doc Rivers changed the call, actually. He yelled that I crossed over and hit the line. She believed him."
Rivers, coach of the Celtics, said: "I just voiced my opinion. Since then, I've heard that he was definitely behind. So if I did [convince them], good."
Wittman was even more irritated by the explanation he got. "Then they're going to give me the excuse that 'There were so many feet involved in the play.' Are you kidding me? 'That they couldn't tell whose feet was whose.' Well, that's their job. Just like it's our job to coach. Don't come to me and say ... 'There were too many feet?!' That's the case every play.
"Don't make up a story. Tell me, y'know what, we just don't know. Don't tell me there's 'too many feet' out there."