NBA

Refs are robbing us of a great Finals

Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers (Getty Images)
Maybe Kobe should tell the refs: "Do you think the fans want to watch you?"
FOX Sports Mitch Lawrence, Special to FOXSports.com
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BOSTON

We’ve got a nice Finals here. We’ve got the NBA’s two flagship franchises.

We’ve got the Celtics and the Lakers, with more history than the 28 other teams combined. We’ve got Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Boston’s Big Three, and some kid named Rajon Rondo who’s turning out to be as much of a game-changer as all the big names up on the marquee.

Now, would somebody over at the league office kindly inform the refs who are working this series to stop screwing it all up?

Because if the refs continue to make a mockery of the games, the NBA is going to see its fans start abandoning the Finals and switching over to Flyers-Blackhawks.

Or NCAA women’s softball games.

I can’t say I really blame ‘em if they do.

Here’s what we’ve seen in the first two games of what should be a memorable Finals:

We had Game 1 go an interminable 2 hours and 48 minutes. That was not even an overtime game. Yet it dragged on longer than a hair restoration commercial at three in the morning. It featured 54 fouls and 67 free throws by both teams.

Right after the crew of Joe Crawford, Joe DeRosa and Derrick Stafford put its imprint on the opener, a memo with the game tape should have been sent to the Game 2 crew of Monty McCutchen, Mike Callahan and Ken Mauer, reading: Gentlemen, do not give us a repeat, under any circumstances!

Obviously, no such memo was sent, because here’s what we got on Sunday in Game 2 as the Celtics tied the series: another “regulation’’ game lasting 2:51, with 58 fouls and 67 more foul shots.

What a disgrace.

What does that mean for Tuesday night's Game 3 in the TD Garden here?

Unless David Stern puts an end to it, as he should have done first thing Monday morning, it promises to be another long night, filled with way too many calls, and another Finals game with absolutely no flow.

Boy, I can’t wait to watch.

The Game 2 refs really outdid themselves. They set out to call everything, even the obscure stuff. Hey, they’ve got a right to do that, even if they’re unwittingly killing their product.

Early on, Paul Pierce got whistled for setting an illegal pick with his foot on the end-line, a real cheapy there. But it’s in the rulebook, so technically, it was a violation.

But after the refs subjected the teams and fans to putting everything under the microscope, what did we see in the final minutes of the game? Trying to get the zebras to give him a timeout, Doc Rivers ran a good 20 to 25 feet onto the floor.

Where was the technical on the Celtics coach? Where were the whistles?

It wasn’t called! Not a tweet!

Are you kidding me? The NBA couldn’t even get that one right?

POLL

  • What's the deal with all the fouls?
    • Refs are calling too much
    • Games are too physical
    • Both of the above

The only explanation I can think of was that the three refs were all winded from calling everything else before Doc’s run. They were simply too tired to whistle him for the most blatant infraction of the night.

“It was funny,’’ Rivers said. “All the players were laughing at me because I tell them I’m in shape and here they saw me run.’’

Maybe they were laughing, but everyone else in Staples Center was probably wondering, and legitimately so, what the hell are the refs doing by not T-ing up Doc?

“I don’t know if you can do that or not,’’ Phil Jackson said. “I don’t think that’s legal to get on the floor. I think coaches have to stay on the sidelines. They’re not supposed to be on the floor. It’s like he was shot out of a starter’s block.’’

Rest assured, somebody’s gonna pay for the screw-up. But that doesn’t mean the problem is going to be solved.

Granted, some of the league’s top officials are not working the Finals. Steve Javie and Mark Wunderlich have been out nursing injuries. The ageless one, Dick Bavetta, didn’t even work the conference finals for the first time since they removed the laces from the ball, signaling there’s a retirement party in his near future. Some of the top refs, guys like Jess Kersey, a real pro who had to bow out two years ago due to injury, have not been adequately replaced.

But who cares about one lousy missed call. It’s the calls that have been made, the non-stop whistles that have been going against Bryant and Garnett and Allen and Pierce, not to mention all the lesser lights, that make you wonder if the NBA knows it’s damaging its own showcase event. It’s the way the games have been over-officiated to death, to the point that some of us can’t wait for the lockout to get here.

Read more of Mitch Lawrence's columns at the New York Daily News.

Tagged: Celtics, Lakers

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