Tuesday, May 23, 2006

This Needs to Stop

What does? Well, a lot of things actually. Players putting their arms up in the air to complain about a call (aka "Doing the Duncan"). Hubie Brown saying "in your face." Dallas fans mistakenly thinking that Michael Finley did something wrong. People saying that Mobb Deep sold out for going to G-Unit (who doesn't sell out the first chance they get? I plan on doing it the minute someone wants to buy my screenplay). And so on. But here is the big one ...

NBA referees need to stop altering the games. Period. I'm not talking about run-of-the-mill bad calls, or blowing a big play down the stretch, or being influenced by the home crowd. Obviously they do all of that VERY well (the NBA has the worst officials in all of pro sports, which is saying something in light of the 2006 Super Bowl), but I am talking about what happens early in the contest that goes beyond anything else they could possibly botch.

You see, I've noticed a disturbing trend in this year's playoffs. It goes something like this: one team (usually the home team, usually the favorite) comes out of the gates slowly and gets off to a bad start, running stupid plays, bricking shots, and generally playing like dog crap. Meanwhile, the opponent comes out smoking hot, throwing in jumpers, taking it to the basket, and forcing the home team to call about six timeouts in the opening period. We're talking 14-for-17 (the Heat tonight) and 19-for-23 (Dallas in Game 7 against San Antonio) type of starts. Next think you know, the score is 21-8, or 24-12, or 33-19. This is when the refs get involved. Appearing to have some sick compulsion to control the game, the officiating crew now immediately begins calling falls on the road team every time down the court. Suspect charge calls, hand checks, tripping calls, you name it. The fouls start mounting. Now the home team is in the bonus and going to the line for free throws every trip down the court, nevermind that they still can't run a set play. Last night the Spurs were getting DESTROYED by the Mavericks when Dick Bavetta and his crew stepped in and called the Mavs for an astounding 23 first half fouls. Every time down the court, the Spurs were shooting free throws. Tonight, the Heat were drilling the Pistons at the Palace and were poised to throw the smack down when the refs jumped in started whistling Miami for one ludicrous foul after another. Detroit went 12-for-12 in the last four minutes of the first quarter (eight of the free throws came on non-shooting fouls) to make the score 33-25. It should have been 33-17.

Why do the refs feel compelled to do this? It is not as if the Mavs are going to shoot 83% for the game. Miami is not going to miss three shots for every 17 they take. It's the NBA, everyone makes a run. If you just stay out of the way, the hot road team will cool off and the home team will make a charge. The problem with "keeping the home team in the game" (which is exactly what they are doing) is that now you are putting the road team at a distinct disadvantage once the tables turn. Instead of going cold with a 14-point or 19-point cushion, now the lead is only six or eight points. It doesn't take much for a team shooting 35% from the floor to suddenly vault past and take the lead. Now you have a team being badly outplayed ... yet leading! Not only that, but all of the innocuous fouls called in the first quarter add up and lead to severe foul trouble. It may seem like nothing for Bavetta to give Duncan 10 free throws in the second quarter as to keep the Spurs afloat, but it sure seemed like a big deal when every Mav was fouling out in the fourth quarter. In tonight's game, Dwayne Wade and Shaq both had three fouls midway through the second quarter.

Miami shot 63% tonight to Detroit's 37% and outrebounded them by 10. Yet they only won by five points and if not for back-to-back threes by Antoine Walker and James Posey in the third quarter, they probably would have lost. It hardly seems possible, but there it is. And it is all because the Pistons were GIVEN at least eight points in the first quarter. Instead of being forced to come back from 16 down, Detroit only had to overcome an eight-point hurdle. Teams do that in three trips sometimes, and had the Pistons made any shots whatsoever in this game, they would have run away with it.

This bizarre and blatant handcuffing of teams that get off to hot starts needs to come to an end immediately before a fantastic NBA postseason is ruined.

1 comment:

Adam Hoff said...

Well, it happened again. The Suns were outplaying Dallas in the first quarter tonight (Game One) and suddenly the Mavs got six points without even attempting a shot. Three straight trips, three straight highly suspect non-shooting fouls. The Mavs were in the bonus so they marched to the line and tightened the game up. Granted the Suns came back to win so I guess it didn't matter, but I am so sick of this. It is like clockwork. Every first quarter, this happens. So lame.