LOS ANGELES — How atrocious was the officiating during Game 1 of the NBA Finals?
The word “fouls” was a trending topic on Twitter by the third quarter.
That’s all you need to know about the Los Angeles Lakers 102-89 victory over the Boston Celtics Thursday night at Staples Center, which never got into a rhythm because of the constant whistles.
“Well, it wasn’t the prettiest basketball game I’ve ever watch in my life,” said Los Angeles Lakers head coach Phil Jackson.
Saying the game was ugly wouldn’t do it justice. It was as if the officials were listening to Too Short’s “Blow The Whistle” during the game.
In all, the officiating crew of Joe Crawford, Joe DeRosa and Derrick Stafford called 54 fouls between the two teams, setting the tone for not only the game but possibly the series.
It all started just 27 seconds after the opening tip; Paul Pierce and Ron Artest got tangled up under the basket and fell to the floor. The two players wrestled for a bit before the referees separated them.
“That’s not the tone that we want to set,” Artest said on the play. “We want to set a tone of basketball. At that point, I was a little emotional and I had a little bit of anxiety at that point, and I was fired up.”
Any chance of Artest going Ron-Ron and losing control was squashed by the flurry of fouls called during the first quarter.
By the end of the first, Artest, Kobe Bryant, Derek Fisher and Ray Allen had two fouls. Celtics guard Tony Allen one-upped everyone with three fouls in just five minutes off the bench. Eighteen fouls and 20 free throw attempts from both sides brought what could have been an exciting game to a crawl.
Ray Allen was affected the most by the officiating, picking up his fifth foul with 1:39 in the third quarter.
“We never got a run,” Allen said. “Even after halftime…going into the half they went on a run…four or five minutes [left] in the second quarter we still had a game going – it could have gone either way. But we didn’t take care of business.”
The Celtics shooting guard finished the game with more fouls (5) than field goals made (3) and scored just 12 points.
“I watched the game from the sidelines tonight,” Allen added. “It was frustrating…I got a bad whistle [and] what could I do.”
Before you chalk up the calls to home court advantage, the Celtics (28) only had two more fouls called on them than the Lakers (26), though it was hard to tell based on the Lakers domination on both ends of the floor.
“I thought the fouls were called because they were more physical,” Boston Celtics head coach Doc Rivers said. “I’ve always thought the team that is the most aggressive gets better calls. That’s just human nature.”
Spoken like a coach who knows if he publicly criticized the officials that he would be fined by the NBA.
What made the Lakers-Celtics series of the 1980’s so great besides the likes of Larry and Magic was the physicality from both teams. Could you imagine if Pierce clotheslined Artest, a la Kevin McHale and Kurt Rambis from the 1984 NBA Finals? Not only would Pierce be ejected from the game, he would likely be facing a suspension as well.
After a subpar playoffs to date, basketball fans had high expectations heading into last night’s game. If Game 1 is a preview of how the referees are going to call the action on the floor, we are in for a long, boring series.
Commissioner David Stern, whom should I make the check out to for criticizing the officials in this column?