Lebron James crashed to the floor, Micheal Pietrus crumpled underneath him, Joey Crawford blew the whistle and signaled an offensive foul. That’s all anybody saw of the off-ball altercation until the replay, which revealed a James swim move to lock Pietrus behind him at the free throw line before driving him all the way to the baseline and into the ground. (See the picture above? The contact started 15 feet ago, it’s pretty straight forward). Lebron fouled out on the play and the announcing team was left perplexed. Jeff Van Gundy: “That’s a tough call, these are all tough calls. To me, that’s just tough, hard playoff basketball and play on”.
I know this is a Washington State site, but I watch the NBA Playoffs like all other sports fans and I can’t sit here and not comment. I’m sick of it! Not the call, not the officials, but the announcing. It may just be the official in me, but I specifically don’t like it when they question a call that was clear as day just because it was a star player. Look at the video Jeff (3:45 mark of the video below)! Earlier in the OT Paul Pierce had fouled out by shoulder-whomping Shane Battier to the floor (3:30 mark of the video below) and Van Gundy commented that he didn’t agree with that call. Then he did one better and said “To me, that’s why we need 7 fouls, (or) something. You don’t want these games being decided because of foul trouble, you want the best on the best”. HA! Laughable Jeff. So if we add a foul to the NBA game and Pierce (or any impact player really) fouls out with 7 fouls do you want to add an 8th, maybe a 9th foul? Why not just take out the player fouls altogether because it’s the Playoffs? Let’s put this into perspective, Playoff basketball is about keeping yourself in the game! If you foul 6 times in a basketball game, you’ve used them. There’s already one more foul than college players get in a game and technical fouls don’t count against your total, and on top of that, the referees let you get away with even more crap when you’re about to foul out of these games. They know the foul situation and they know not to call a 50/50 play to foul out anyone. So that’s on the NBA player, not the amount of fouls allotted or the referee making the call.
Flashback to even earlier in the game, (3:00 mark of the video below) when Kevin Garnett hooked Lebron, pulled and extended Lebron’s arm, and then jumped… neigh, thrust himself into and through Lebron before landing on top of him. Bill Kennedy correctly whistled and came out with an enthusiastic “going the other way” punch out. How do you think the TV team acted? They were, you guessed it… miffed. Mike Breen commented that he didn’t actually know who that foul should have been on, because Lebron “was trying to pull his arm out while he was being held”. Come on Mike! Garnett reacted as if he didn’t know what the call was, but when does an NBA player NOT do that? Um, never. In fact not one foul in the second half of this game did a single offending player “agree” with.
Did I agree with every call? No. Dwayne Wade threw Pierce to the ground in the first half to get the ball and no call was made. I’m not sure there was a single clean screen set the entire game in pick and roll situations but there was never a whistle. There were some bang, bang fouls called (including a double foul on James and Garnett) that I’m not sure I agreed with and there was a charge called that by rule should have been called a block. It’s an NBA Playoff Game so yeah, it’s tough to officiate and calls are going to be missed, or ignored, and as long as it’s consistent and it’s not game changing I’m down with that.
But listen, when a perfect call is made at a critical juncture of the game the announcers should recognize it as such. I’m sick of Breen and Van Gundy questioning calls because when they look at it in slow motion both guys go down together, or more specifically because the call was made on an offensive player who was “trying to get position”. It’s ILLEGAL! Watch the play in real speed and it’s easy! In fact you can see it in slow-mo: The guy running through the opponent (in all three cases here running through the defender), causing both players to fall is guilty and the call must be made or you cheat the player who had position. Simple as that. These calls were not only correct, they made the game what it was, a terrific finish with the right guys on the floor.
*For the record I like Breen and Van Gundy and think they call a great game in general. But the comments on these plays just make me angry because they call into question an obvious call and that’s not their job.