I do not want this piece to be seen as a me complaining about my Los Angeles Clippers “getting robbed” last night in Oklahoma City. Chris Paul played terribly down the stretch and basically choked the game away, but let’s be honest here- he got some help from the officials.
NBA officiating was all anyone could talk about today and the play in question occurred with 11.3 seconds left as Russell Westbrook stole a pass from Chris Paul, passed it to Reggie Jackson who was then obviously slapped on the hand by Matt Barnes. No foul was called, but it was ruled Thunder ball and then reviewed.
Now, before I venture into discussing what the rule that applies here is I’d like to take the referees to task for missing a pretty obvious foul call. Matt Barnes got barely any of the basketball and as Scott Brooks said “I’ve seen 4 or 5 different angles and he should have gone to the line and shot a pair of free throws”. I agree completely, but the baseline official Tony Brothers did not see it that way.
When the referees went to the monitor, they should have considered rule 8 section II which stipulates “If a player has his hand in contact with the ball and an opponent hits the hand causing the ball to go out-of-bounds, the team whose player had his hand on the ball will retain possession.” Okay, so in the end the zebras award OKC possession, but after the game when Tony Brothers filed his report, his reasoning for the upholding the call was that there was no video evidence which disputed the initial call. Well that was obviously untrue as TNT showed several different angles and on at least two it was clearly visible Jackson last touched the ball, Marv Albert and Steve Kerr even had it stopped at one point where one could clearly see the ball and hand connect.
Let’s take it step by step here and look where the referees messed up. (1) They missed the obvious initial foul which caused Jackson to lose control of the ball. (2) Brothers believed Barnes got all ball and then got it wrong when it came to who touched the ball last. (3) When going to the video monitor, the crew did not refer to rule 8 when making the call, which leads me to believe they were unaware of the rule because in a situation such as this, an individual who was familiar with that rule would easily be able to cite and apply it. Not only did they ignore the rule, I don’t think the crew was familiar with it or even knew it existed as indicated in Brothers report after the game. (4) Brothers and company ignored indisputable video evidence which clearly showed Jackson touching the ball last. It’s concerning that a referee in the NBA who is looking for indisputable video evidence on a replay would just ignore, well… indisputable video evidence.
So Reggie Jackson should go to the free throw line to shoot a pair down two with 11 seconds left. Instead, Chris Paul is then called for a very questionable three point shooting foul on Westbrook and after looking at the replay Paul goes straight up and Westbrook moves into him to create slight contact which apparently warranted a foul. These ghost three point shooting fouls have been incredibly prevalent in these playoffs and every team has had some fall in their favor and to their detriment. We have seen a lot of arguing in the playoffs from both players and coaches, which is indicative of the inconsistency the referees have been conducting their work with.
Tonight in Miami late in the 4th quarter Joe Johnson was bumped on his was to the basket by LeBron James and there was no whistle. 10 seconds later Johnson made similar and less obvious contact with James and was whistled for a foul. The referees also missed an obvious hack by LeBron on Johnson, and as the ball went out of bounds, Joey Crawford appeared to make the same mistake Brothers did in searching for indisputable evidence and not using rule 8 section II.
When it comes down to it, across the board the officiating in these playoffs needs to become more consistent. Players need to know what they can and cannot do, but when boundaries are not set players have the right to be agitated. Referees can not be making different calls on two similar plays within a span of a minute of each other. The officials have complained throughout the playoffs that they are fed up with players and coaches arguing, but they seem unaware of the fact that their inconsistency could be the cause of this discourse.