Deandre Ayton had a game-winning, alley-oop dunk as time expired to help the Suns win Game 2.
Ayton’s dunk would have normally been an offensive goaltend, but on an inbound pass, it’s legal.
The Suns exposed the rule in 2017 off a similar play, but many in the NBA are unaware of it.
Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton wasn’t aware that he wasn’t breaking a rule on his game-winning alley-oop over the LA Clippers in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals.
With the Suns trailing 103-102 with .9 seconds left, Ayton caught an alley-oop pass from teammate Jae Crowder over the rim. Ayton flushed home the dunk as time expired to give the Suns the win.
Finishing off a play while the ball is over the cylinder of the rim would usually be offensive goaltending. However, off an inbounds play, it’s legal to catch the ball and dunk it, even if it is over the rim.
ESPN’s Mark Jackson was reiterating on the broadcast that the play wasn’t goaltending.
“Just to reiterate, there are people in here saying that’s goaltending,” Jackson said. “No, that’s a live basketball. You can grab it and finish it, you can block it away. That’s excellent execution and great awareness of the rule.”
Here’s the play, which has since become known as the “Valley Oop,” in honor of the Suns’ “Valley” jerseys.
After the game, Ayton told reporters that he thought he had broken a rule but was assured by Suns head coach Monty Williams that it was legal.
“It was just confusion,” Ayton said via The Athletic’s Sam Amick. “I’ve never been in this position before. I just knew to put the ball in the hoop right now. If you didn’t know that – I worried [it was illegal], but I did what coach told me to do. So I’m like, is it on me? Coach looked at me and said, ‘Yo, that’s the rule. It’s above the cylinder. You can finish that play.'”
Cameras had caught Williams telling Ayton during the huddle that if he was in a position to catch the ball, he had to dunk it.
Coincidentally, the Suns were one of the first teams to bring this little-known rule to light. In 2017, former Suns center Tyson Chandler dunked a game-winning alley-oop off an inbounds pass as time expired. While there was mass confusion at the time, with the Suns’ opponents, the Memphis Grizzlies, believing it was goaltending, then-Suns coach Jay Triano explained that he had been sitting on the idea for a long time.
“I asked the officials when they come and do their clinics and seminars with the coaches. I asked them that 15 years ago, back when I was in Toronto,” Triano said. “They had to go back [to the rule book] and look at it and come back. And I have tried to keep it a secret. It’s not a secret anymore.”
Suns guard Devin Booker, who was on the court for Chandler’s alley-oop in 2017, told reporters on Tuesday that he had to tell Clippers guard Rajon Rondo that Ayton’s dunk did, in fact, count.
“When Tyson ran it at first, I think, it was four or five years ago, I learned that rule, and I think it’s something that a lot of people don’t know,” Booker said. “Even talking to Rondo at half court after the game, he’s like, ‘It don’t count.’ I’m like, ‘I’ve seen it, and I’ve seen this movie before. It counts.'”
The play had two features that deserve appreciation: Booker’s screen on Clippers center Ivica Zubac, which freed Ayton…
… and Crowder’s perfect inbounds pass, placed where only Ayton could reach it:
The Suns now hold a 2-0 series lead as the series shifts to Los Angeles for Games 3 and 4.
Read the original article on Insider