Sunday, June 20

NBA Finals Game 7: Where Refs Controlling Legacies Happens

With 1:23 remaining in the 3rd quarter, Joey Crawford called Big Baby Glen Davis for a push in the back away from the ball. The foul appeared largely innocuous at the time, no foul shots were taken, Davis, a rserve was not in foul trouble and you won't see it on any highlight reels. With one simple call, however, Joey indicated a shift in officiating that would largely rob the players to write the latest chapter in NBA history. The NBA Finals had a game 7 for only the second time in the last 25 years, but other than Ron Ron's post game press conference, this one will be remembered for the player being robbed of a chance to write history.

After 82 regular season games and 23 playoff games, the Celtics were leading by four little points heading into their final game of the season and potentially their final game as a team for this particular collection of players. 105 games and three quarters, as well as knocking out the likes of Wade, LeBron, and Dwight Howard should have entitled this team an opportunity to write their own final chapter, but that opportunity was swiped from them. Don't be confused, this is not anti-Lakers, while they won and probably wouldn't change anything, they were likewise not afforded the opportunity to cement their legacies, either. Except for Pau Gasol, who once again proved he'd rather get a call than make a play, unless it involves discarding a point guard on a rebound.

Through the better part of three quarters the refs were stellar, allowing the players to determine who was going to be most deserving. Here you can see how many free throws were being attempted per minute through each quarter. The first three quarters are very similar, but the 4th takes a dramatic turn. In a quarter where the Lakers scored 30 points, they made just six field goals.In a game that was 57-53 entering the fourth, with scoring at a premium, granting one team nearly two free throws per minute was bound to have a dramatic effect on the game. Watching the game it did not feel that it was being played dramatically different, but suddenly it was being called dramatically different.21 free throws attempted in the fourth and while the Lakers did not shoot particularly well from the stripe, it was the only reason that a game that had been nip and tuck remained close down the stretch. At halftime ABC highlighted Boston's ability in transition as a key to the second half. This ability was virtually nullified in the fourth quarter as the FTs allowed the Lakers to be set on defense nearly every occasion. Only six times were the Celtics not pulling the ball out of the hoop or rebounding a free throw. On four of those, they scored or were fouled. A 66% success rate that had there been more opportunities, could have made a huge difference.

While Celtics Lakers remains the most storied rivalries in the NBA and maybe all sports, the final chapter of this series was written by three officials who either got nervous or couldn't help wanting to be a part of the story. It should be noted that while one team was attempting more free throws in one quarter than had been attempted by both teams through three quarters the ESPN announcing crew completely failed to acknowledge this revelation. Perhaps if we don't talk about it, we can pretend like the players did decide the game. Unfortunately, Game 7 of the NBA Finals, the greatest gift an NBA season can give was altered dramatically by three referees, a story line that has become all too common in recent years.

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