In the cruelest irony, what might have been The Truth’s final great moment turned out to be a lie.
Paul Pierce — the NBA veteran with that wonderful nickname — brought the Wizards back from the brink in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series with a bank-shot winner against the Hawks. He was nearly the hero in Game 5, with his big shot matched later by Atlanta’s Al Horford.
In Friday’s Game 6 in Washington, Pierce again looked to have saved the day for the Wizards with an apparent game-tying three-pointer at the end of regulation. Referees on the floor called it good … but these days, the truth isn’t that easy.
A video review showed that the ball left Pierce’s hand about one-tenth of a second too late. The clock had expired, the points came off the board, and instead of an opportunity in overtime to force a Game 7 in Atlanta on Monday, Washington’s season was over — with perhaps Pierce’s career along with it.
Pierce, 37, talked afterward to reporters about the toll NBA seasons take on the mind, body and spirit, “I don’t even know if I’m going to play basketball anymore.”
He’ll have an offseason to think about it. For now, I can’t help but have strangely conflicting thoughts about a game in which I had zero rooting interest but wished that an incorrect call would have stood.
We should be heartened by the idea that the technology exists to make sure such plays — so hard to discern with the human eye in real time — are eventually called correctly, and indeed usually this is how most of us feel.
But there are exceptions. Dez Bryant’s catch/non-catch against the Packers in this past year’s NFL playoffs comes to mind. So, too, does Pierce’s shot. After a game in which dozens of small errors in judgment or timekeeping likely occurred, it can feel unnecessarily cruel when we are deprived of a magnificent moment by a sudden intense interest in precision or the strictest letter of the law.
If there are fair critiques of replay, this notion is at the top.
The strong counter-argument is that replay review’s chief function is to legislate those make-or-break plays like a potential game-tying shot but not the mundane one-tenth of a second that might have been missed on a ball going out of bounds in the second quarter.
Logic dictates that 100 percent of the time, if we believe in justice and proper outcomes, we should want those game-deciding moments called properly. What if the Hawks had lost that game and the series? That’s not fair at all.
And still, every so often emotion takes over. Almost every time, I want the truth to prevail. But on Friday, in the heat of the moment, I wanted The Truth’s lie instead.