Match referees admitted making a “gut-wrenching” error after being accused of cheating by the Los Angeles Lakers in their defeat by the Boston Celtics.
Lakers star LeBron James was challenged by Jayson Tatum as he missed what could have been a game-winning shot.
But referees did not call a foul and the game went to overtime, with the Celtics eventually winning 125-121.
“There was contact, we missed the play,” admitted the game’s officiating crew chief Eric Lewis.
The National Basketball Referees Association wrote on Twitter: “Like everyone else, referees make mistakes.
“We made one at the end of last night’s game and that is gut-wrenching for us.
“This play will weigh heavily and cause sleepless nights as we strive to be the best referees we can be.”
The non-call had James hopping up and down in frustration, while team-mate Patrick Beverley ran on court with a camera seeking to show an official photographic evidence of the foul.
Beverley received a technical foul for his protests and the Celtics converted that free throw at the start of overtime.
Lakers player Anthony Davis said after the game that his side were “cheated” and suggested referees should be fined for missed calls.
“It’s unacceptable and I guarantee nothing is going to happen to the refs,” said Davis, who suggested that Tatum had committed a “blatant foul” on James.
“We got cheated. To miss a call that blatant, the ref is sitting right there on the baseline, it’s tough. It’s not fair. I guarantee if the refs started getting fined for missed calls, it would be a lot better. But nothing’s going to be done.”
James added: “We don’t have room for error.
“This is one of the best games we’ve played all year, and for this to fall on somebody else’s judgment or non-judgment is ridiculous. It’s ridiculous.”