Wednesday, June 15, 2005

NBA Finals: Games Three and Four

This very bad
individual is back
Vacation is great, but internet access is slim to none, so the Game Three thread is late. Sorry about that. But if you've got something to say about Detroit's thrashing of San Antonio last night, this is the place. I'll get things started by saying this: Ben Wallace appears to be back. If he stays active and engaged the rest of the series, this one could go either way. *Note, Big Benny Wallace did indeed stay active and this series is all knotted up at 2-2. I was too lazy to start a new thread, so this will suffice until Game Five.


JB said...

You've mentioned that the Spurs whine a lot (and they do), but don't the Pistons whine just as much? Even when they were winning, Hamilton was moaning and crying like someone stole his first born child. What's the matter with these guys?

Jeff Dritz said...

Everyone in the league whines about calls. The Spurs get more slag about it because they're better at it, and because they win.

Adam Hoff said...

JB, no doubt the Pistons are whiners too. That is one reason why I was rooting for Miami. And Dritz is right, everyone whines. It's reached the point where I was going to make a list of the NBA's Biggest Complainers and then decided that a list of guys that DON'T complain would actually be much more interesting. Off the top of my head, the only guys from these playoffs that consistently just play without excesive whining (outstretched arms, stomping around, grabbing the ref's hips ala Gary Payton, scrunching up your grill like 'Toine, etc.) are: Shaq (only the random smirk), Michael Finley, Joe Johnson, Stephen Jackson (just kidding), Jeff Foster, Ben Gordon, Larry Hughes, Rashard Lewis, Earl Boykins, and Shane Battier. I'm sure there are more, but that's what I came up with.

Adam Hoff said...

By the way, Tuesday was sweet redemption for Ben Wallace and Rip Hamilton, but when is Taushaun going to do something? He has had a positively brutal series. If Manu is back to full strength tonight, Prince will need to rise up and slow him down for the Pistons to win. I think this is probably the only truly interesting game of the series. If Detroit wins, they sieze the momentum and have the chance to take it back to San Antonio 3-2, putting all the pressure on the Spurs to win at home (ala the Jazz in 1998). On the other hand, if the Spurs win - which seems not only possible, but probable - then this thing is over. You have to wonder how the NBA will play it. Do they want the potential for a riveting series? Or are they aware that no one is watching, so they are content to just get it over with an establish Manu is the big international star they need to continue peddling their product overseas? We'll know by whih refs are assigned to the game. If Dick Bevetta makes another appearance, it's going to Detroit. Ron Garretson is in the house, count on a Spurs win.

Jeff Dritz said...

It may be a bit naive, but I may be the only sports fan left who doesn't believe that the NBA (or NFL, or MLB, for that matter) arranges to influence the outcome of games. Perhaps I just don't want to believe it. I hope the league office doesn't try to impress upon refs the ideas of which team winning helps the league, or choose refs on that basis. I like to think that these leagues are steeped in fair and impartial adjudication, and everyone goes out and gives their best every night.

Check that, I'm definitely naive. Ah, blissful ignorance...

Adam Hoff said...

Topic: Are the games rigged?

I don't think that the refs are out there with a mandate to call the game a certain way or ensure that one team wins. However, you might very well be naive if you don't think the NBA has influence over the outcomes. I believe what the NBA does is send their sketchiest officials out on the road in games in which the home team needs to win. Exhibit A: Boston at Indiana, Game Three. Guys like Salvatore and Beveta are proven commodities - when the home crowd starts "surging toward the court" (as my man Bill Walton would say), they get influenced every time. So if there is a game coming up where it would be in the league's interest to have the home team win (see: Reggie Miller extending his career at the expense of a crybaby Celtics team), you can always count on those guys being assigned that game. That's how they lock things down.

The other side of things is the whole personal vendetta issue. No matter how much we wish it wasn't so, some refs have it in for certain teams, players, and coaches. It's why the league flips out everytime there is an accusation of foul play. They came down hard on Riley a few years ago when he accused the refs of calling his games differently, and we all saw how Van Gundy got killed this year. Just a few days ago, Larry Brown indicated as much when he stated that his team is 1-7 in the 2005 Playoffs when Ron Garretson or Dan Crawford works the game and 11-1 (now 13-1) when they don't. Those are some pretty hard core stats. Hard to see how it is a coincidence. In response to this Mark Cuban posted the Mavs' playoff records from 2001-2005 on his blog, breaking it down by official. When Garretson works the game, Dallas is 1-5. When Dan Crawford blows the whistle, they are an astounding 0-8. What do the 2001-2005 Mavs and the 2005 Pistons share in common? Not playing styles. Not opponents. Apparently, they are both just hated by Dan Crawford. Again, it is remotely possible that this is all a coincidence, but I doubt it.

The bottom line is that the work of the referees should be made more public. Their records should be known, their fines and other forms of punishment should be known ... it should all be out on the table. If the NBA would remove the cloak of mystery from this aspect of the game, we could all just criticize and analyze it like we do the performance of players and coaches.

Bottom line: the games aren't quite rigged, but they are definitely influenced. And I suppose that is okay, because otherwise, we'll have to turn to robot refs that do spin moves over Jamie Foxx's stealth bomber, eventually develop minds of their own, and then threaten to destroy the world.

Adam Hoff said...

I should add that the Pistons absolutely spanked the Spurs tonight. Now the series is 2-2, the Pistons have the momentum, and the Spurs have home court advantage. Who gets the edge? Hard to say - is it like baseball, where momentum is only as good as the next day's starting pitcher? Basketball is different in the sense that there is no mitigating factor like an ace pitcher. However, momentum is still hard to maintain, to keep tabs on. If the Spurs stroke a bunch of threes in the first quarter of Game Five, it could go in the opposite direction.

Here are some thoughts coming out of The Woodshed Game (because the Pistons took the Spurs behind the woodshed and spanked them silly):

- It might be time to slow down the "Duncan is the greatest power forward of all time" talk. He's been fortunate to play on a very good team most of his career, have the same coach, have a system built around his game (both strengths and weaknesses), and receive very little of the "superstar's burden" (the need to carry SportsCenter, provide the media with constant source material, lift the USA team to titles - anyone notice that he got a free pass last summer while the wolves got their pound of flesh from guys like Marbury and AI? - and so on). He's been oustanding, no question about it, but greatest ever? I suppose it is possible, but unless he gets off the mat in this series, that talk will take a long hiatus. Tim Legler was just killing him tonight for pulling the Pouty Pete routine on the bench. And he probably deserved it for being such a big baby.

- It might also be time to slow down the "Manu is so great" train. His own coach says he's healthy, so it's not the little thigh bump. He's just streaky. Anyone who has watched the NBA all season long knows that you have highs and lows with Manu. You'd never see Kobe or McGrady or Wade or Iverson or any other big time shooting guard get shut down in two straight Finals games. I fully expect thousands of people to injure themselves falling off of the Manu Bandwagon in the next 24 hours.

- The format of the Finals is stupid. The 2-3-2 breakdown unfairly punishes the team without home court advantage. Do you know how hard it is to win three straight games against a good team? The Spurs did it against the Suns and the world almost imploded. How is it fair to ask the "road" team to do it in the most important series of the season? They changed the other rounds in the interest of fairness, yet the Finals - the series with the most down time for travel and rest - doesn't want to move people around too much. Huh?

They changed to the 2-3-2 format in 1984-1985. Other than the three sweeps, the team with three home games in the middle has had the chance to win three straight games 17 times. Only once did it happen ... last year by the Detroit Pistons. Once! And now they pretty much have to do it again to have a chance to win this series. How is that fair?

The system needs to be changed to allow for the "road" team to have a decent shot at winning all three of their home games without being forced to win three straight games overall. Not only that, but if these Pistons repeat as champs - and do it by being the only TWO teams in the past 20 years to hold serve for three straight home games - they truly deserve a special place in history.

- Finally, Ben Wallace is definitely back. Over the past two games, he has defined the phrase Most Valuable Player.

Anonymous said...

Why is Tim Legler so fired about about Duncan? Did he lose a bet? Did Duncan hit him in the balls during his playing days? I know the guy choked the last two games and you were right to mention that his status as greatest PF ever is in question after a couple of dog performances, but why is Legs bashing him like this? It's like he's purposefully logging more time on ESPN just to take shots at TD.

theplayer211 said...

Everyone whines when the refs are calling fouls like there is no tomorow. But whatever is going on, these playoffs are great to watch.

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