A lot of fans are understandably worried about the Celtics after their last two games vs. the Cavs. They blew a big lead twice, losing one game and allowing the other to get uncomfortably close.
But it's important to remember that both games were HORRIBLY OFFICIATED. In the first, the refs' errors directly caused the game to swing to Cleveland – even if it is also true that the Celtics pretty much fell apart in the 4th quarter. In the second game, the refs often swallowed their whistles when the Celtics were fouled yet called ridiculous offensive fouls on the Cs, completely ignored the 3-second rule, and also wrongly gave possession to the Cavs at least twice (once after video review, no less!).
But, you say, the team should be good enough to overcome the refs' screwups. True enough. But let's consider what lousy, biased refereeing does to a team's mindset. We've seen this before. 2010's Finals Game 3 comes to mind, where, if you remember, the Celtics pretty much gave up in the first quarter because it became so OBVIOUS that the refs were going to hand that game to the Lakers (Cs were up 2-0 at that point, and would have put the Lakers away if they'd won.... bad for business, I guess.)
It's only natural – human, that is – to feel at least a LITTLE hopeless and demoralized when the refs keep wrongly swinging their decisions to the other side, and the contest is not evenly called. Sure, it's happened a lot over the years, and you might argue that they should be used to it by now, because they're pros, etc. Yes, they're pros. But they're also human, and thus fallible and sometimes weak. When they see the refs making mistakes in ONE DIRECTION ONLY, over and over again, well, it's understandable that they might take their foot off the accelerator a bit. And it doesn't take much deceleration to lose an NBA game.
I.e., the total negative effect of bad officiating can be substantially greater than the sum of the refs' calls... and that effect is something the players and coaches can't talk about. So we should. And no, this isn't an 'excuse.' It's a theory about perceived reality (and it applies to all teams).
Yes I know... things are what they are. But what they are in the NBA adds up to some pretty rotten officiating. Imo, this is by far the biggest problem and gripe we fans have with the NBA. And for good reason.