As much as I hate talking about officials and good/bad calls, they were central to the story lines last night. So reluctantly I wade into this topic before moving back to the action on the court that I actually enjoy watching and talking about.
In case I wasn't clear before, my official stance on officials is this: NBA refs are at best inconsistent and at worst flat out bad. However, I cannot believe that there is any covert movement to favor one team over another - and even if there was, it would be more likely to favor the Celtics than not (large market, storied franchise, generates interest and ratings). I have always felt that bad calls happen for everyone. Sometimes they cost us a game, sometimes they win us a game. Over the course of a season and usually over the course of a playoff series, things typically even out. Of course there are some exceptions (Kings/Lakers, Heat/Mavs, etc.) but I don't think those are the norm.
Last night might have been a microcosm of that. I'm not going to tick down every good/bad call, but there were two big calls that made a big difference last night.
Ray Allen's Double-Foul
To my eyes, that was a bad call. The ref seemed to react to the reaction rather than the play itself. In other words, he probably wasn't watching Ray and Miller until arms went flailing about and he saw the two tied up, so he just went with the cop-out double foul call. With all that said, it was a bang-bang play and I understand how a ref might miss that in real time. Mark Murphy has the Ray Allen reaction:
But last night’s was particularly grating, considering that he was attempting to get a around a Brad Miller pick while chasing Ben Gordon. The Bulls center hooked Allen with his elbow and was also called for a foul, but obviously remained on the floor.
"It was very subtle, but when you go by guys lock into you, and that’s what he did - he locked into me low, nudged me and I tried to keep going, because I was on my path," said Allen. "They’re setting tough screens that I have to get over. It’s so interesting how Kendrick (Perkins), the whole series, gets hit with offensive fouls and offensive screens the whole day long.
"I’d like to look at it, and see what it looked like from the camera’s point of view, but I don’t know what I did to warrant a foul. How am I supposed to defend? I can’t have a guy attacking me, and then when I put a hand on him being called for the foul."
The Non-Flagrant Call on Rondo
When the play happened, I don't think anyone was thinking flagrant until they saw blood. With that said, the guy was hit in the face, so you always have to look at that closely. Here are the two sides of the story via the Globe:
Celtic coach Doc Rivers agreed: "It was a great foul by Rondo. You always talk about playoff basketball, no layups. Rondo did it on the very last play and it won the game for us."
But Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro disagreed: "You have to go for the basketball and he didn't come near the basketball, he hit the face. I thought it was a flagrant. I agree it's a playoff foul, but it's still a flagrant and you have to call it."
Some schools of thought make the case for not calling flagrants on questionable plays when it is the last play of the game (the thinking being that you don't want a ref deciding the outcome of a game). Some schools of thought say that you have to take into account the intentions of the player. I don't know all the details of the rulebook but the bottom line is that you have to admit that it was a close call and it went the Celtics way.
I understand that fans have every right to complain about the refs. Coaches like Doc Rivers make a point to point the finger at officials because that's what coaches do - they look for any edge they can get.
Officials do make a big, big difference in every game and they are a long way from perfect. With that said, they have a very difficult job because of the rules changes that Stern has put in (to increase scoring, etc.) and they are going to make mistakes, that's a fact of life. So feel free to keep complaining about the refs. Nobody here is going to tell you how to be a fan. I'm just not going to join in very often.
(Note: Commenter DRJ wrote a guest article that was published on Red's Army. Enjoy.)