Sunday, May 11, 2008

Sweet Justice

The Utah Jazz pulled out a 123-115 overtime victory over the Lakers today and for that I can only say, thank goodness, because they nearly got screwed worse than any team this postseason.

Obviously, officiating is a constant problem with the NBA Playoffs, because you have three (often times old) dudes trying to chase 10 supreme athletes up and down the court. The current officiating model is so broken that it's a joke we aren't trying to fix it. Therefore, a good percentage of the plays and of the entire games are sullied by one terrible call after another.

But today's LA-Utah game might take the cake. The first 45 minutes of the contest weren't unusual as the officiating team made some good calls and some bad ones and seemed to go both ways with each variety. The only major issue was the Turiaf ejection in the first half, but that only seemed controversial because Mike Tirico and Hubie Brown were so clueless as to the reason the Frenchman was ejected. Turiaf got the Flagrant 2 and the boot because he fouled Ronnie Price AFTER the whistle had blown out on the perimeter. They spent 10 minutes dissecting arm angles and attempts to go for the ball, but all that stuff was beside the point.

Anyway. For most of the game, the refs were fine. Then, they collectively lost their minds with four of the worst calls I've seen this postseason. All of which came in an 8-minute stretch from the close of regulation through overtime. And all four went against the home team.

1. Mehmet Okur's T. This was pure garbage. Okur got called for a very close foul when he nearly snuck in and poked the ball away from Odom. Then, when he expressed his frustration by swinging his arm in frustration, he got hit with a technical. I still can't fathom how Eddie F. Rush could justify that T. What did Okur do? Guys do that - and worse - on 95% of the calls during every single game. And you're going to hit a guy with a tech in the closing minutes of a must-win playoff game? Nice. (By the way, that free throw was the difference between Utah winning the game by one in regulation and going to overtime.)

2. The offensive foul on Kyle Korver. Early in overtime, Korver had the ball out top and was dealing with Vujacic, who was employing Derek Fisher's favorite move, which is when the defender pokes and bodies the offensive player repeatedly and then takes a dive when the offensive player asserts his space by swinging he ball through. There is a slight chance that Korver tapped Vujacic's arm when he swung his elbow through, but even if he did, he has a right to that space. You can't swing your elbows out at a defender, but you can pull the ball through anytime you want. If the defensive player happens to get in the way, tough luck for him. I learned this in like fourth grade at basketball camp - it's one of the most basic concepts in the book. But since Vujacic took his Fisher dive, the weakside official decided to come tearing in to make the offensive foul call. Horrible.

3. Not long after the Jazz got hosed on an offensive call, they were then on the bad end of another missed block/charge call when Kobe Bryant got cut off by Kirilenko on the sideline and then just shoved AK-47 to the ground. It was as obvious as charging calls get in the NBA and the perfect chance for a good old-fashioned makeup call. So what's the determination? Blocking foul. Holy hell.

4. Finally, Derek Fisher was trying to probe the defense late in the extra frame when he chicken-winged Deron Williams to the floor. Granted, Williams flopped to sell the call, but until the league decides to crack down on flopping, you can't punish a guy for doing what everyone else does. In fact, the very guy throwing an elbow - Fisher - invented that move. But instead, they somehow found reason to charge Williams with a foul (even if you think it was a flop, the worst possible outcome for Utah should have been a no-call).

If you've read this blog for any length of time, you know I'm not a Utah fan or apologist. I have nothing against them, but I'm a Blazers guy and when Portland isn't in the mix, I root for the frenzied teams like the old Suns, the Warriors, and the Nuggets. Plus, I'm a big McGrady guy, so that takes the Jazz down a peg. But on this day, I was the biggest Jazz fan alive, because had they lost because of those four atrocious calls, it would have been a crime.


Brandon said...

I'm linking this post on my blog, if that's okay.

There are a few friends of mine who are convinced that any time I complain about the calls the Jazz don't get I'm being completely irrational.

An unbiased observation will come in handy.

Christina said...

It isn't news that the Lakers get the benefit of the doubt way more than any other team. Its because LA is a huge market, so the better the Lakers do, the more money people will spend, so the happier the NBA is. Its ridiculous, unfair, and wrong, but its the truth. The block on Kirilenko was my favorite. Kobe pushes him down and Kirilenko somehow fouled Kobe??

This isn't about the refs, but I also enjoyed the commentary when Kirilenko blocked Kobe, who caught the ball out of bounds. Hubie Brown found that to be an appropriate time to rave about Kobe being an offensive force who can read defense so well... well enough, in fact, to get completely stuffed and then turn it over. Brilliant. Of course Kirilenko's influence was ignored...