EXPLAINER: Why was Deandre Ayton’s dunk a legal NBA play?

When Phoenix’s Deandre Ayton reached over the rim to dunk Jae Crowder’s pass for what became the winning points of the Suns’ 104-103 win over the Los Angeles Clippers, several players immediately argued that the play was illegal. Perhaps it was wishful thinking on their part. Or perhaps they did not know the rule. In almost any other situation, what Ayton did would have been a violation and the shot shouldn’t have counted. But in this situation, what he did was perfectly legal. That’s because under NBA rules, you can’t goaltend an inbounds pass. Even if the inbounds attempt went through the basket, it would not count as a field goal.