By Joe Manganiello
If you walked away from game four of the Eastern Finals last night believing that the Miami Heat were bamboozled by the officials, I’d question how much of the game you watched. Better yet, I’d question how much of the game you didn’t watch. Here’s six reasons the officials didn’t blow the game for Miami last night:
6. The officials called fouls on both sides from the opening jump to the final whistle.
LeBron James was the only player to foul out of the game, yes, but the Pacers and Heat were getting called for just about everything. So much about basketball officiating – heck, officiating any sport at any level – is calling a balanced game. The crew came out of the gate calling just about everything in game four. There were 14 first quarter fouls, and Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Paul George all finished the first period with two fouls.
Before Wade’s fourth-quarter travel motivated two late-game fouls by Miami, the Heat had just three more fouls than the Pacers (28 to 25). The Heat had four starters with four fouls or more; the Pacers had three. The Pacers are the bigger team, and scored 25 of their 35 field goals from inside the paint; their team is built to get Miami in foul trouble. And yet, the calls were split just about equal all four quarters.
The best argument that anyone could make to me that the officials “wronged” Miami last night was that on some, not all, of LeBron’s five previous fouls there was some debate. The foul that comes to mind is the shove to David West 93-feet from the basket with two seconds left in the third quarter. Look, was that a foul? Eh. Hardly. And furthermore, Joey Crawford was doing what he always does, which is try desperately to impact the game, trend on twitter and up his google hits. Even still, if you’re LeBron in that situation, you can’t risk it. He DID extend his arm and shove West off him. Whether Crawford stalking LeBron 93-feet from the basket is appropriate or not, it was called for a reason.
5. LeBron’s sixth foul was not nearly as bad as the personal foul on Paul George late in the third quarter.
Following the monster block by LeBron James on George Hill… (I’ll wait for you to re-watch it seven or eight times)
… Paul George attempts to secure the loose ball. Ray Allen (1) rushes over to the ball with a lowered shoulder and extended arm; (2) pushes George over; and (3) falls down after tripping on George’s legs.
Yet, the foul call went against George. While the TNT broadcast booth gushed over the marvelous defensive play by LeBron, Frank Vogel earned a technical foul for arguing the call that went against George.
Just like that, what could have been a layup and six-point lead for Indiana became Miami’s ball, Miami’s momentum and a free throw for the NBA’s greatest shooter – the same guy who, ironically, should have been called for the foul.
4. LeBron’s sixth foul was also not nearly as bad as the blown out-of-bounds call late in the fourth quarter.
Allen was on my nerves the entire game, just like he has been the entire season.
Allen’s seven rebounds led the Miami Heat last night. I’m not sure what’s more obnoxious about Miami: that the Pacers can out-rebound them 49-30 for the game while the Heat’s perimeter shooting keeps them in it OR the fact that Allen can come off the bench, out-rebound Wade and Bosh combined and the Heat can remain a few plays from victory, on the road, in the playoffs.
I thought that my feelings of animosity for Allen peaked on his improbable (although it is Ray Allen we’re talking about) three-point make with 5:14 left in the fourth quarter. Oh no, it got worse.
Indiana was called for a turnover with about 36 seconds left in the game when George threw a pass that landed past West out of bounds. The ball appeared to be deflected by somebody, and because there was less than two minutes left in the game, the officials could review the play.
On the replay from the far sideline, it was definitive that Ray Allen touched the ball, and absolutely inconclusive West touched it. But, the officials wanted to really make sure they got it right. So they kept reviewing.
After what felt like a few days of reviewing the play, Crawford gave the ball to Miami.
Huh??? The only conclusive moment of the review is that it goes off Allen, so how can you give it to Miami? I don’t care that the original call was out on Indiana; it is very much in doubt that Indiana touched it last and there is video evidence that Miami touched it!!!!
Needless to say, I’m not the world’s biggest Ray Allen fan.
3. And there is no debating that LeBron’s sixth foul was not nearly as bad as the blown shot clock violation call.
We’ve all seen the play by now, so I’m not going to oversell my point. Instead, I’ll point out a few factoids surrounding this play:
A. The Pacers were up by nine at the beginning of the possession.
B. After securing multiple offensive rebounds, the Pacers earned a tough basket that would have put them up 11 points with 8:26 remaining in the game had it not been for the called shot clock violation (that wasn’t actually a shot clock violation).
C. Immediately following the violation, the officials called a phantom foul on Stephenson at the other end (the opposite of a make-up call), his fifth personal foul, and Mario Chalmers made both fouls shots.
D. Stephenson was forced to sit with his five fouls. By the time he reentered the game, Miami was up by three points.
E. With Stephenson out, Augustin crossed the eight-second line and inexplicably threw the ball to Wade, who earned a trip to the charity stripe and made both shots (it was a five-point game in the blink of an eye).
F. After George and Chalmers traded two-point baskets, LeBron created a 7-0 run and put the Heat up for the first time since the third quarter.
Miami put together a 14-2 run in just over a minute and a half of basketball and were right back in the game. Egregious.
2. Just because LeBron nevers fouls out, doesn’t mean this time the referrees were wrong.
What does "Lebron James fouled out" mean? –Miami Heat fans
— The Fake ESPN (@TheFakeESPN) May 29, 2013
In 893 career games (regular-season and playoffs) LeBron has only fouled out five times, including last night. He has only fouled out twice in his Miami tenure. While his Wilt Chamberlain-esq ability to avoid six fouls is impressive, it also reeks of frequent protection by referees that don’t want to go through the scrutiny that the crew from last night is presently receiving. Look, watch LeBron play: he is as physical as it gets; he makes a living from driving into the lane and demanding contact; he is an aggressive defender that uses his size as a weapon; and in the pick-and-roll game, he frequently juts out his hips and backside.
LeBron James is more than capable of committing a foul, and a foul is a foul is a foul. While I know why stars are called differently than role players, particularly on this stage, last night’s game was called a certain way from the jump and letting an illegal screen go because LeBron had previously acquired five fouls would have gone against that.
1. And finally, it WAS an illegal screen.
Watch the play: LeBron trips Lance Stephenson and discreetly gets him with his hip.
If Udonis Haslem is setting that same screen with 56 seconds left in the fourth quarter, it’s a foul, and nobody says anything about it.
Here’s the bottom line: the better team won game four. We have a series on our hands now. Games 5-7 (oh yeah, this thing is going seven) are going to be must-see-television.
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