It’s not that NBA officials just make mistakes and simply blow calls on the court, they do that regularly like any other pro sports officials. The problem with NBA officiating is that it constantly has a hidden agenda for particular games and teams and frankly, it’s detrimental to the entire league. Of course, I am saying this the morning after the Denver Nuggets’ game-two, 114-111 loss to the beat-up Jazz on Monday night in what was an oddly officiated game.
I don’t want to sound like the grumpy hometown fan who feels his team was wronged by some bad calls but sometimes you just got to be that guy. And I would imagine anyone that stayed up until 12 a.m. watching game two would agree with me that the officiating was weird. While the game was physical, intense and exciting, it was still weird.
There was no tempo or flow to the game. It was foul after foul after foul after foul – on both teams. It was a game where the players didn’t know what kind of game was being called the whole time. There were times during the game when things would get rough and tough and the refs would allow it to play. Then, when the game got more intense toward the end of the third quarter, the refs pulled the reins back on the players with a ton of petty, chippy fouls that hurt the tempo of the game. And those fouls hurt the Nuggets too.
After scoring a playoff-best 42 points in game one, Carmelo Anthony did not have the night he was looking for in game two, despite scoring 32 points. According to ESPN.com, Anthony was effective from the stripe by knocking down 14 of 15 free throws but could only garner nine of 25 shots from the field. What was worse is that Anthony, for the first time in his career, fouled out of a playoff game with four offensive fouls under his belt. I believe that maybe two of his offensive fouls were justified. The other two maybe not. The foul that killed Anthony and the Nuggets was when the refs whistled Anthony’s sixth and final foul with just 25 seconds left, Nuggets down by one. So the full court defense was on, Anthony was all over the Jazz’s C.J. Miles, who then stepped out of bounds with the ball. But the refs, instead of calling a turnover and giving the ball back to Denver, called a foul on Carmelo and sent him packing. In the most important 25 seconds of the game, Denver’s best late-game shooter was riding the bench. In fact, Denver is 1 and 11 all time when Anthony fouls out. This was a huge call, and, frankly, it cost Denver the game.
“[Anthony] not being in there the last 25 seconds was huge for us,” Utah’s Carlos Boozer admitted after the game.
The Nuggets finished the game with 37 total fouls, with four starters finishing with five fouls each. The whistles got used on Monday night, that’s for sure. Now the refs decided to not let Anthony get too physical on offense and that hurt Anthony. Denver has seen this before. Some refs let Anthony play rough. Some don’t. When they don’t, Denver adjusts and goes to Mr. Big Shot Chauncey Billups who can usually cash three-pointers at will. On Monday, though, Billups wasn’t immune to the refs (as he usually is) and ended up with five fouls and couldn’t hit the three pointers.
What pissed me off the most during the game was Utah coach Jerry Sloan, who received a technical foul in the first half for dropping some F-bombs at the refs. It was apparent that Sloan didn’t like the way the refs were allowing Carmelo to get rough down below. So after he let them know about it and the refs, T’d him up, it seemed the refs listened. Anthony was no longer allowed to bring the ball into the paint rough and tough style. The refs placated Sloan and it was obvious. (And to Sloan’s credit, his foul mouthing worked.)
I don’t want to take away a gritty, tough win from the Jazz. For the Jazz to go into Denver and play the way they did was commendable. And perhaps the Jazz is all the Nuggets could handle. They couldn’t handle both the Jazz and the refs. For this, I think it’s time former NBA ref and flunky Tim Donaghy’s referee manual Blowing the Whistle to be required reading for every high school student. Maybe then we’ll all have a better understanding of why the NBA refs are the way they are.