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Friends of LunarAdventures:
NBA referees drive me batty. Mavs fans feel the referee pain again.
I want to preface this by saying that, yes, Antoine Wright should have played until he heard the whistle. Yes, the Mavericks should have hit their free throws down the stretch. Yes, it would have been nice if Dirk hit his turnaround jumper (I do believe it was taken at the right time, though — you don’t want to rush into a shot at the end of the shot clock).
But, that having been said, the referees screwed the Mavericks in a critical playoff game. Again.
And no one should be surprised it was Bennett Salvatore and his crew. Again.
I even put up a concerned status on Facebook (or I commented on someone’s status, I don’t remember) worried about Salvatore. But, honestly, his crew was fine for 59 minutes, 58 seconds. It was just those final two seconds.
Before we look at tonight, though, let’s flash back in time to the 2006 NBA Finals, game 5. In that game, the criticism of Salvatore was that he decided to take the game into his own hands and call a touch foul (if you can even call it that) when Dirk Nowitizki happened to stand too near to Dwyane Wade with 2 seconds left in the game. The general rule of thumb in refereeing is that in the last minute of the game, you call hard fouls, obvious fouls — you don’t want to take the game into your own hands and bail a player out. You let them sort it out
One could argue that a foul is a foul is a foul, no matter what time of game — a valid argument. But given that line of thinking, if every time a player touched another player (which is all that Dirk did, if that), no basketball would get played between whistles. So, given any perspective, that foul was a bad call; I’ve never read any writer, national or local, that disputes that.
And now, today. The exact opposite of 2006’s call happened. Salvatore and his crew had an EXTREMELY active set of whistles. They called 61 total fouls. They sent players to the line for 89 free throws. For the entire game, they were in complete control — even fouling out Chris Andersen in barely over 10 minutes of playing time. I remember being pleasantly surprised during the fourth quarter, saying to myself, “they’ve blown a lot of whistles… but they’ve been good calls. The calls are even against both teams, and they’re getting the calls right.”
I spoke too soon.
With 6 seconds left in the game, Denver called a timeout. The Mavericks had a foul to give, so Dallas coach Rick Carlisle told his players to intentionally foul the Denver player with the ball before he goes into his shooting motion, to take some time off the clock. It’s a common strategy at the end of NBA games — so much so that referees are made aware of it, and look for the intentional foul and call it quickly, so that no players get hurt. The player has to go for the ball and not use excessive force, or else they’ll get tagged with a flagrant foul, which means 2 shots and the ball.
Time and time again, this happens at the end of games. But not tonight. As the Associated Press described it:
Antoine Wright had a simple objective. In a game with 61 fouls already called, he was trying to commit another. Wright bumped Carmelo Anthony once, hard enough to knock him off stride. But not enough for a foul call. So he jostled Anthony again. Still no call — and now Wright was out of position, leaving Anthony a clear look at the basket. His 3-pointer went right through with a second left, giving the Denver Nuggets a 106-105 victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday, and a 3-0 series lead that has been insurmountable in NBA history.
And so, again, the Mavericks lost. After the game, the NBA admitted the officials blew the call. Empty consolation for the players and fans once again on the losing end of referee mistakes. Two years ago, it was a foul that never happened getting called. Tonight, it’s a foul that clearly happened not getting called.
Again, the Mavericks should have won that game regardless of bad officiating. They had their chances, and blew it. That shouldn’t mask the problem the NBA has with their officials. It’s plain and simple: players and fans never know what constitutes a foul and what doesn’t. One trip down the court, a player gets mugged driving the lane, and the referees say nothing. The next trip down, a player grazes some forearm swiping for the ball, and it’s a foul. There’s no consistency between plays in a game, let alone from game to game, crew to crew.
The NBA is hurting their game by not fixing this problem. I absolutely refuse to believe that on a planet of 6 billion people, the NBA referees are the finest referees available. Not with the number of mistakes and bad calls they make. Not with the showboating they exhibit, thinking they’re part of the entertainment show.
Thanks for the apology, NBA. Now go do something about it: fix the system.
Sat May 9th, 2009 10:55 pm