There is an unprecedented level of parity in the NBA these days; one loss can drastically alter the fate of a team, as it can cause them to fall out of the playoff picture entirely. While Trae Young and the Atlanta Hawks still have a three-game cushion over the 11th place Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference standings, they would very much prefer to avoid falling out of the eighth spot.
However, it looks like yet another officiating blunder has taken center stage, ripping away the Hawks' chances at a victory against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday night. With the Hawks down by one, 125-124, the ball went to De'Andre Hunter's hands after the Timberwolves denied Trae Young the inbounds pass. Hunter proceeded to miss the rim entirely, but Saddiq Bey tried to crash the glass in hopes of pulling off a miracle.
Alas, Taurean Prince was able to ward off the attempt from Bey — but apparently, he was able to do so because he fouled the Hawks forward, at least according to officiating crew chief Ben Taylor.
“On post-game review we see it. It appears that Prince moves back into Bey’s space, and we should have assessed a foul on the play,” Taylor said in his Pool Report on the final play. “Looks like from one of the angles that we have, that he backs on the rebounding action as the ball is coming down, and he is moving backwards into him and delivers a little bit of contact there.”
The frustration regarding the officials' tendency to miss these sorts of calls might be reaching a boiling point. To make matters worse, Ben Taylor is the same referee Fred VanVleet put on blast in his instant classic rant two weeks ago, which, in fact, has led to a more diminished role for the official. This won't help matters for him at all.
At the end of the day, winning against the Timberwolves on could have gone a long way towards helping the Hawks maintain their position, especially after the Toronto Raptors and Chicago Bulls lost. But now, Trae Young and the Hawks have to find a way to overcome a setback that is beyond their control.