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Suspect Officiating Only Flaw In Otherwise Perfect NBA Postseason

Jovan Buha |
April 19, 2011 | 12:36 p.m. PDT

Staff Writer

The refs missed a key trip by Kevin Garnett Sunday. (Creative Commons/Keith Allison)
The refs missed a key trip by Kevin Garnett Sunday. (Creative Commons/Keith Allison)
Wire-to-wire games. Upsets. Dominant performances by star players. No, this isn’t March Madness. This is the 2011 NBA Playoffs.

In the first few days, we have seen amazing performances from Derrick Rose, Dwight Howard, Chris Paul and Kevin Durant.

The Memphis Grizzlies, New Orleans Hornets and Atlanta Hawks pulled upset specials, and the Indiana Pacers almost did so twice as an eighth seed.

You want close games? How about Denver-Oklahoma City? Or Los Angeles-New Orleans? Or even Chicago-Indiana?

Whatever magic March Madness has traditionally had throughout the years, the NBA postseason has had this year and more.

Yet, as usual, there’s one unfortunate similarity: Officiating.

After a questionable NCAA Tournament run that featured several controversial calls (and some controversial non-calls as well), this NBA postseason seems to be heading in a similar fashion.

How about the free throw disparity between the Bulls and Pacers (32 to 17) and the Heat and 76ers (39 to 15)? The underdogs hung with the big boys all game, but in the end the top teams were too much for them to handle (both the Pacers and Sixers are down 0-2).

But what if Derrick Rose didn’t attempt 21 free throws? That’s an impressive number, but looking back there were at least 3-4 questionable calls in his favor.

The same can be said in the Heat game Monday.

Without the obvious favoritism in the free throw department, would the Heat and Bulls series be 1-1 instead of 2-0? Who knows, but you can definitely make that case.

Moving on, we have Celtics-Knicks. Please, don’t get me started.

How lame was that offensive foul call on Carmelo Anthony at the end of Game 1? I guess the ref didn’t catch Paul Pierce grabbing, wrestling and jockeying for position with Anthony before Anthony gave him the slightest of shoves back.

Call Derek Fisher, Manu Ginobili and Anderson Varejao what you want. Pierce definitely joined the “floppers” club after Sunday’s game (as well as his infamous wheelchair moment).

Besides the terrible offensive foul call that shouldn’t have been called, the refs missed an even bigger blunder.

Kevin Garnett set an illegal screen on Knicks guard Toney Douglas on the final Celtics possession. That screen was actually a trip on Douglas that freed up Celtics guard Ray Allen for the game-winning 3-pointer.

Those huge back-to-back plays allowed the Celtics to eke out a two-point victory despite trailing for most of the game.

Finally, we have the Thunder-Nuggets game.

Oh boy.

How about this? The refs made the biggest mistake of the playoffs at a crucial moment in the game. With 1:05 remaining in the game, Russell Westbrook attempted a midrange jumper with the Thunder trailing the Nuggets 101-100. The ball appeared to be going in, but Thunder center Kendrick Perkins tipped the ball in from under the basket.

Good play, right?

Not so fast. Even to the naked eye, the play was suspect. It was evident Perkins goal-tended by hitting the ball while it was still in the cylinder. And what do you know? The replay confirmed it.

But the refs decided against reviewing the call, which put the Nuggets in a one-point hole rather than a one-point lead, which they should have had.

The Nuggets failed to score on the ensuing possession. The Thunder added two points on their next possession, putting them up three with 22 seconds left. It was game over from there.

The fact that the refs had the option to check their call and they didn’t is disturbing.

Yes, refs make mistakes. They’re not perfect. But plays like this one were the reason the NBA added replay rules in the last two minutes of games.

Yet, again, the refs (and ultimately the NBA) failed.

Moving forward in the playoffs, how do we fix this?

We can’t. The refs have too big of an ego to admit they are wrong. When do they ever change their minds?

The only time they can be swayed is deciding who the ball went off of or who the foul call was on. That’s it. They never take away a blocking foul, take away a charge, or even take away a tipped ball that they “believed” was legal.

This is where my conspiracy theories arise and I begin to question the NBA. Is it just me, or did all of the questionable calls come against the road team in favor or the home team?

I understand the home team has a home court advantage (and therefore the favor of the refs), but these referee mistakes have been costly. They solely benefited the home team.

If these mistakes had not occurred, we may have been looking at seven upsets in first round first games. Think about that for a second. That’s better than March Madness (seven out of eight!).

There’s no apparent way to fix these issues. The NBA will wait until another major screw up happens to solve the problem (which is what they always do).

In the meantime, you’ll just have to live with the knowledge that the refs have the power to take a victory away from your favorite team. Especially if you happen to be rooting for the underdog. 



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