Last night’s game was memorable to say the least. D-Fish gets all the credit in the world for hitting those two big threes. Trevor Ariza really stepped his game up in the third quarter. Kobe missed a lot of shots but the ones he hit kept the team from getting blown out when the rest of the guys were struggling. But there were some other things that really bothered me that I have to say. I say these things because others in the media won’t. They are afraid to. I’m not. I have no stake in this thing other than being a devoted fan of the Lakers and an even bigger fan of the game of basketball.
I tell people all the time. “Yea LA has been my team since 1979. Whether they were up or down. If they play great they play great. If they suck they suck. I don’t say they are great or got cheated when they sucked.” I am as hard on them as anybody. The point being that I am no fair weather guy. Even in the midst of this series part of my fan apprehension of the team is wondering what team would show up on a given night. Would it be the inept team that showed up in the first half of last night’s game missing assignments and making mental mistakes? Or that third quarter team that showed a level of hunger that matches their talent? Either way I don’t deceive myself about what is before me.
I say all of that to say this. If I wasn’t sure before, now I know without question that on occasions the NBA officiating is either corrupted by instruction of the league or of the gamblers. Let me explain.
While everyone is caught up in Fisher’s heroics and rightfully so, the Lakers were in a situation where the game was almost impossible to win. Consider this:
While the Magic went to the free throw line time after time in the fourth quarter, the Magic were not called for a single foul in the fourth quarter until the last two minutes. This was not a situation where the Lakers were only shooting jump shots. To the contrary Kobe himself went to the rack several times and got plenty of contact with no whistle. Eventually he just went with the fade away shots. Meanwhile, Hedo, and Howard went to the line with regularly and Pietrus got an “And 1” opportunity (a good call) on a drive against Bryant.
Let’s add it up on this level. Of the last 17 minutes of the game, including overtime, the Magic had a total of three fouls called on them, and the only Laker to see the free throw line was Pau Gasol after a flagrant foul at the end of the game. Meanwhile, during the first two periods, Gasol, Bynum (or Lord Bynum) and Odom quickly got into foul trouble. The Lakers were sporting a front line of Mbenga and Powell in the second quarter for god-sake. The first foul on Bynum in the first quarter was a play where Kobe clearly made contact with Howard, but Andrew got the foul. OK no biggie. But the foul Bynum got in the second half when he and Howard were tipping a lose ball was flat out ridiculous. Not only was there no contact between the players, Bynum had the inside position. The only reason the Lakers were in a position to tie the game was because Orlando turned the ball over 19 times and missed most of their crucial free throws. The officials did everything they could to hand them the game. The Magic just couldn’t take it.
Now look, I am an official and I know that we all miss calls. So maybe Kobe goes to the hole and doesn’t get the call. There are times when I don’t make a call and say to myself afterwards, “I missed that one. ” But the thing is, as an official you don’t keep missing them. I also understand that at time teams get calls on their home court. But for the Magic to be in the penalty five minutes into the final period and the Lakers not to get a call their way until the clock was under 2 minutes was shameful.
I honstly felt sick to my stomach watching that game. Because my love for NBA basketball took a hard fall while sitting in front of that TV. Even as the Lakers climbed back in the game and eventually won it, as much as I have celebrated and cried for my team even as a youngster, I could only think that in spite of the NBA wanting to extend the series, justice was served as the Lakers fought their way to victory. There was no smile on my face, only contempt.
I get that there is an entertainment level to the game. No one wants to see superstar players leave the game in foul trouble. I get that. Still for me win or lose, there has to be a purity to the game. Players should decide the outcome. Calls will be missed, mistakes made by players, coaches and officials. The Lakers have benefited from such mistakes too in times past. Last night it was so blatant it was just ugly. I thought to myself that I may not even watch the rest of the series. I would like to see the Lakers take it home. But I know this for sure. I won’t look at the NBA the same anymore after last night.
The Lakers won’t say anything because miraculously they won the game. But don’t think they don’t understand what went down. I don’t know that Orlando will get the help they just got though they have another home game on Sunday. It wouldn’t surprise me either way. But I’m just saying.
BB&G’s Random Rants
We know that coach Phil Jackson is trying to win his 10th NBA title as a coach. But for some reason NBA has-been Alonzo Mourning thought it his place to say that Phil doesn’t do anything but show up while Kobe does the coaching. This from a man who played 15 years in the NBA and didn’t win nothing until he rode the coattail of Dwayne Wade in 2006. He seems to point to Kobe talking to players and showing them things on the diagram to make points during timeouts. But as I recall every great team has facilitators and leaders who are coaches on the floor. I remember Magic and Michael doing it back in the day. Isaiah did it with the Pistons. Chauncey Billups is the ultimate example of that. But just because he was an extension of the coach I didn’t hear anybody saying that Larry Brown just showed up and called timeouts. Or that George Karl doesn’t have anything to offer. Phil is surely secure with himself so he makes fun of Zo’s being a bitch. I guess that little play Phil drew up taking the ball out past half court so the Magic wouldn’t foul right away before Fisher’s three was Kobe’s idea too. Whatever.
Random Rants 2
I love me some Bill Russell. Greatest NBA winner ever and a true statesman. But WTF is up with him showing up at the last couple NBA Finals sucking up to the Lakers opponents big men. Last year it was KG, which is understandable because it was the Celtics. But this little feature with Dwight Howard was just ridiculous. I mean what relationship does he have to the Magic? Just that they are trying to beat the Lakers and if they were to beat the Lakers it would prevent Phil Jackson from surpassing Russell’s coach Red Auerbach in championship trophies? I mean if the Cavs were in it would he be schmoozing with Anderson Varejao or Big Z? I thought that was kinda whack. Red’s place is cemented in history. But these haters can’t take nothing away from Phil. Talk about Jordan, Kobe and Shaq all you want. But take one look at all of the hall of famers that Red coached and then get back at me on that. A coach has to know how to work what he has.
Speaking of coaches. What is up with Cleveland jerking Mike Brown around? If this guy’s job isn’t safe this year, that shows that LeBron really has their management team shook. I know ya’ll have to sign “The King” and all… but don’t be so fickle. Have some balls at least and show some freaggin loyalty. With this talk of Pat Riley Dan Gilbert is starting to remind me of Dan Snyder.