How a Fumble Saved the Sixers
Thaddeus Young deserves all plaudits for this brave, clutch bucket that gave Philadelphia a two-point lead in the closing seconds of a Game 3 win over Orlando. Young never hesitated to attack, a real credit to his growing confidence as a 20-year-old weapon. But if not for fumbling the ball in the lane, Thad would be a goat instead of hero.
Look at the play again, step by step.
First, Thad picks up his dribble after driving baseline.
The right foot here comes down a beat after Thad's last dribble. Then ...
Thad hops on the right foot as Dwight Howard closes in from across the lane. It would appear Young is attempting to jump stop in the paint, but because of the hands diving for the ball (a bit risky by the Magic, to be honest) can't get the left foot down with the right, as we see next.
There goes the left foot, Thad's third step since picking up his dribble. It's unclear if Young would have been called for the violation -- there are a lot of bodies in there, and we have to deal with the notorious whistle-swallowing theory of refereeing.
Of course, it doesn't matter in this case because ...
... Thad loses the ball just before his left foot plants. Had he not lost the ball and had the referees swallowed the whistle, Young might have been able to kick the ball to Donyell Marshall, who set up for a three at the right elbow. If Rafer Alston (under the letter "b" in the above capture) had rotated quickly, Marshall had Willie Green in the right corner. (Hopefully Marshall would not have passed it to Willie.)
So the Sixers could still have won in regulation without Thad fumbling the ball. But that would have counted on the refs missing (or ignoring) a travel violation, and Marshall or Green hitting an outside shot. If Young holds on to the ball and gets called for the travel, Orlando would have had the ball on the side with more than four seconds left.
That's an important fumble in a pivotal game. Basketball is so weird sometimes.