May 28, 2008

Close (Non-)Call: Lakers win in San Antonio

The Los Angeles Lakers narrowly escaped San Antonio with a rare road win in Game 4 to take a 3-1 lead in the NBA's Western Conference Finals. The Lakers almost blew a commanding 7-point lead in the final minute of the game, but thanks to a series of controversial non-calls, the Lakers still prevailed with a score of 93-91.

The most glaring non-call came in the last 2 seconds in regulation as the Lakers were by 2 points. The hot-shooting Brent Barry of the San Antonio Spurs got the ball beyond the the three point line and Derek Fisher of the Lakers bought in to Barry's fake jumped in to the air. There was contact, but Barry avoided it a bit and was able to launch a desperation three ball that did not draw iron. Kobe Bryant said in a post-game interview that it was "No foul," but Lakers coach Phil Jackson did not deny there was contact, but he pointed out another non-call prior to the Fisher-Barry play. Jackson claimed that one shot of Derek Fisher hit the rim, but the officials did not reset the shot clock, leaving the Lakers with little time in their last possession to get a good shot. What ensued after was the controversial play.

Some people will say quid pro quo-- the officials "made up" for the non-call by having another non-call. This is similar to the "make-up" calls refs allegedly make to appease a team when they screw up a call, like a foul. The league will not admit it, but I've seen a lot of NBA games where in the refs made a bad call and "rectified" it with another questionable call.

This latest game of the Lakers and Spurs has the conspiracy theorists drooling-- you may see a lot of "The NBA is rigged," or "The NBA wants a Los Angeles Lakers-Boston Celtics Finals" posts in the blogosphere and news articles. But does that mean the league is aligning the stars?

This may sound naive, I personally think the league will let the officials make calls and let the players play in the playoffs. If the league is OK with a Detroit Pistons-San Antonio Spurs or San Antonio Spurs-Cleveland Cavaliers Finals match-up in the past, then there's still a reason to put the conspiracy theories to rest.

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