How bad was the officiating?

First and foremost, even with the bad officiating, the Celtics should have won this game. Bad shooting by the C's was much more instrumental to the loss than any mistakes the refs made.

Secondly, it was an extremely physical game and the refs let a lot of contact go, by both teams.

Thirdly, the highest level refereeing I ever did was high school basketball, so these guys are much better at their jobs than I could ever hope to be.

Finally, it is impossible to say how instrumental a missed call actually is. For example, The uncalled goaltending (if it actually was on the way down, as it appeared to be), would have produced 2 points for the C's, but if called, would have changed the dynamics of the game, especially how the teams played at the end. Could it have made a difference, sure, but you never can tell.

But I went back and re-watched the game and made notes on the calls I thought the refs got wrong. I know that I missed seeing a lot (I didn't see Horford camped in the lane at the end, or Giannis grab Horford's arm, which the L2M crew caught). But here is what I did see.

First Quarter

There were 7 times that there was clear contact, but no foul called. These seven could have gone either way, and I really had no trouble with the refs letting the players play physically. However, three of those times, Giannis was the player making what I thought was too much contact. But, as I say, there was a lot of uncalled contact, both ways.

In the first quarter, there were three times I thought the refs just blew the call. 1:39 remaining, Grant Williams drives the baseline and Giannis shoves him out of bound and hacks his arm. No call. At :45 remaining, Horford is on a fast break and George Hill fouls Horford on the shot. No call. With :03 remaining, Tatum pushes off before shooting. No call. So I have the refs missing 3 calls in a quarter (in addition to the 7 that were close). Not horrible, but not good either.

I chuckled over the Bucks" challenge on the charge called against Giannis. It was clearly an offensive foul, it was like the Bucks were saying "Don't you realize who you just called for a charge? He doesn't get called for charges!)

Second Quarter

I saw 4 times that the refs could have called a foul, but let it go. Again, in a physical game, you are going to let close calls go. However, all 4 were Giannis actions. I think that they could have called Antetokounmpo for a flagrant foul at 8:04 when Tatum had a breakaway. Antetokounmpo's hand was nowhere near the ball, it didn't look like he was trying to block the ball. The only difference, in my view, between this play and the play in the Memphis series was that Giannis did not "wind up" before he hacked the man above the neck. This guy is one of the most gifted athletes in the NBA. He has enough body control to know where his hand is going to strike, and he didn't hit the ball, or come close to it.

There were 4 additional calls which I thought were particularly bad. At the 9:20 mark, Giannis runs over Derrick White (again, if the refs had called White for a block, or Giannis for a charge, neither call would have been overturned on review), but after that, Giannis shuffles his feet, gives a little hop, moves his pivot foot, hops again and then dunks the ball. Three refs missed it. What to me was the worst mistake the refs made all day was at 5:57. Timelord blocks Grayson Allen's shot, and Tatum almost has it. Allen mugs Tatum in plain view. No call. Then, Milwaukee goes back and hits a transition three. Big play in the game. At 3:55, Giannis blocked a shot on the way down. No call. The last blown call I saw was the mutual fouls on Lopez and Smart at 2:48. No way Smart should be called for a foul.

So now, 7 missed calls in a half. That is getting pretty bad.

Third Quarter

I had 5 calls which could have been called or let go, two of them involved Antetokounmpo.

But the really bad ones, in my view... At 7:32, Grant Williams is standing still and Giannis crashes into him, away from the action. Foul called on Williams. At 6:19, Timelord has position for a rebound and Portis comes over the back, bringing his arm down on Rob's head. No call. Not only was it a foul, but that was a play that is usually looked at for a flagrant foul. I would not have been surprised if the correct call was in fact a flagrant one. Speaking of flagrant fouls, at 8:36, Giannis is driving the lane and Grant wraps him up, clearly a foul. But Antetokounmpo clamps Grant's arm so he can't get away and then tries to flip him over his hip. It looked to me that he was trying to intentionally hurt Grant.

Fourth Quarter

By now things have gotten so physical that it no longer makes sense to count the times that calls could have been made.

But the refs still missed a lot. At 6:29, Brown is driving to the basket and a foul is called on Grayson Allen. A foul occurred, but Allen never touched Brown, but Giannis mugged him. Called the wrong guy for the foul. At 6:06 Giannis rams Jayson Tatum in the open floor. No foul called because Tatum didn't lose the ball. At 5:57 Grant Williams was called for a charge on Pat Connoughton. The Celtics challenged the call and it was affirmed. It probably was a charge, but the refs looked at whether Portis had pushed Williams in the back before the charge. Portis did push Grant and it was before the charge. It wasn't much of a push, but it was a push, and it did occur before the charge. The problem is that the refs said that it occurred after the charge.

In the Last Two Minute Report, the NBA found 5, count 'em, 5 blown calls.

By my calculations, there were 13 potential foul calls on Antetokounmpo that were not called. In addition to that, he had two potential flagrant fouls that were let go, one goal tend and one travel.

So, yeah, in my opinion, the refs were not good. They missed a lot. But if Jayson Tatum plays better, it is a non-issue.

It sounds like Ime is trying to get his players to play through the bad calls. My biggest concern is that if the officials continue to stink out the joint, the players (both teams) may get so frustrated that somebody gets hurt. I could understand retaliation, or the attitude, "If you aren't going to call fouls, then watch this."

Giannis Antetokounmpo is a great player and the Bucks are an excellent team. But the Celtics should win this series.

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