Last Minute Events
Now you'll see how the game referees began making a series of mistakes.
Jim Forbes scored to make it a one-point game, but the USSR team is still leading. At that moment, there were 38 seconds left in the game.
The Soviets had 30 seconds allocated for their attack. They decided to waste as much time as they could. As a result, Alexander Belov had to try to score from a very inconvenient position. He got a blockshot from McMillen, but managed to get a rebound.
Some may wonder why the game wasn't stopped, and the ball handed to the Americans, since the ball didn't hit the ring or the backboard. According to the rules at that time, a player would have to try to make a shot within 30 seconds (read the article 59 here). After Belov's shot attempt, a new 30-second count started.
Let's make a quick review of some of Soviet players' allegations that the American players fouled Alexander Belov. The video doesn't support that. James Forbes (number 10) and Tom McMillen (number 13) both jumped vertically in order to block Belov's shot and they kept their hands up. There is no sign of any foul here.
A. Belov continued to hold the ball. There were only 8 seconds left in the game, so he should have passed the ball to Sergey Belov, who was standing 4 meters away, and was not being guarded. That would have probably ended the game, but instead, he decided to pass the ball to Sakandelidze, and that decision was a terrible mistake. Not only was Sakandelidze guarded by Tom Henderson, but Doug Collins expected that pass, so he intercepted it and ran towards the Soviet team's basket. Sakandelidze decided to foul at the very last moment, rather than allowing Collins to make an easy layup.
There was a discussion between the Soviet players whether that foul was justified or not. Though general opinion is that it was, two players (Zharmuhamedov (number 7) and A. Belov (14)) claimed that it wasn't necessary. At the moment of the foul, S. Belov (10) was already under the basket, ready to jump, and A. Belov had actually tipped off the ball that was headed toward the basket.
It's difficult to move your eyes away from Doug Collins, falling from about two meters above the court. But if you follow the ball, you'll see that it hit the backboard and was descending in the direction of the basket. It was unclear whether the ball was falling into it, or not. In that situation, A. Belov's action is called goaltending and the American team should have been awarded two points. The referees were aware of that rule; earlier in the game, they had awarded two points when the same A. Belov committed a goaltending in a similar situation, and the score became 11:7.
There is also a video from the camera in the corner. Here:
From this camera view, it looks like the ball was about to miss the target, but would probably hit the rim. That's goaltending! It must be clear to the referee (who was well behind, so the first video view is approximately what he saw) that the ball missed a basket in order not to consider it goaltending. If there is doubt, that's goaltending. Let's read the rule (you can read the full article 30 here):
A defensive player shall not touch the ball after it has started its downward flight, during an opponent's throw for field goal and while the entire ball is above the level of the basket ring.
Videos from both views confirm that goaltending did happen.
One could argue that a whistle was blown before Alexander touched the ball (actually it's his own argument), so it doesn't matter what happened to the ball after the whistle.
There was so much noise in the hall that I cannot recognize a sound of a whistle. Frame-by-frame viewing helped to identify that Collins released the ball while still being in a vertical position; so there is no way a referee would blow a whistle before that. Let's read the rule (full article 81 is here):
Whenever a foul is called on the opponent of a player who, as part of a continuous motion which started before the foul occurred, succeeds in making a field goal, the goal shall count
Clearly, Collins started his jump before the foul and long before the whistle.
I think I have proven that goaltending happened and that it doesn't matter if the ball was touched by a defender after the whistle.
Alright, the referee missed the goaltending. Now what about the foul? Let's read the rule (full article 63 is here):
If the foul was committed on a player in the act of shooting,
1. if the goal is made it shall count, and the Official shall hand the ball to the player who is to throw in from the end line
For some reason the rule doesn't say who gets the ball from the end line, but it's obvious that it is a defending team. So, now knowing that Collins scored both free throws, we also know that missing goaltending didn't affect the score.
We can conclude that the referees made a mistake, but not the last one in the game.