If you cover sports for a living, you are generally disinclined to write about umpires and referees, particularly in the NBA, where officials blow the whistle, (or elect not to blow it, a decision in itself), hundreds of times over a 48-minute game. Good refs and bad refs are determined over time (just like good players and bad players, and, for that matter, good writers and bad writers), not in the cauldron of a few overheated moments. Fixating on calls is generally the province of full-throated fans at the arena, frustrated television-watchers at home, and, in this day and age, irate chat-roomers seething at their laptops.
But as we head for Thursday night's Lakers-Celtics 4 at TD Garden, it is a fair question to pose: What exactly is going on with the refs in this championship series? What's being called and what isn't? I have no doubt that many fans -- even those who look at the game objectively and not from the sole perspective of "my team is getting screwed" --are asking the same thing.
At least one starter from each team has gotten into early foul trouble in every game, which has had a severe impact on player rotations. A whistle blows far away from the action, suddenly and mysteriously, even as mayhem is going on around the ball. A dribbler drives, a defender steps in, both fall, and one or the other is charged with a foul, even though, if a thousand refs were polled, 500 would call "block" and 500 would call "charge." Calls are reviewed, as three of them were in Tuesday's Game 3, and all three were overturned.
"Going by the percentages of the replays, we should replay a lot of them," said Celtics coach
(Man, I hope that doesn't happen, lest we turn what has become a three-hour telecast into a four-hour telecast.)
Understand that I don't accept the blanket observation that NBA refereeing is poor. It's too simple, too pat, and ignores the fact that the league office takes extensive pains to review officials' calls (
And it won't get any easier in Game 4; Boston, in particular, will come out physical, and the refs will want to keep it in line. Celtics center
But what we have here is a classic conundrum. The game is too physical, too
Yet, six fouls is still the limit. Why? Is six a magic number? Should the Celtics really have had to sit
There were some great basketball on Tuesday. Garnett's exquisite low-post footwork that helped him score 25 points. Bryant's softly released left-hander that floated over Garnett's outstretched hand in the second quarter. Fisher's gutty play down the stretch, which left him emotionally spent, as real a reaction as I've seen from an athlete in a long time. And you know what? There were some great calls, too, such as the first-quarter foul on the Lakers'
But too many fans out there were, too often, wondering what was called and what wasn't.
During a fourth-quarter timeout, Boston's