Jun 6, 2012; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Derek Fisher (37) speaks to official Joe Crawford in action against the San Antonio Spurs during the second half in game six of the Western Conference finals of the 2012 NBA playoffs at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-US PRESSWIRE
Only a blind Thunder fan or someone who lives to troll LeBron James would think this NBA Finals series will be remembered for its officiating.
The lengths to which some people will go to avoid giving credit to the Miami Heat, starring the greatest player on the planet and some other neat athletes, is astounding. The Heat are up 2-1 over the Thunder, just as they were in the 2011 NBA Finals, with the prospect of two more games in South Beach. Winning both would clinch the series. Winning one would give Miami two opportunities to win one more in Oklahoma City to clinch. LeBron James has been overwhelmingly brilliant throughout the first three games; he's only been matched in impact by Kevin Durant, who has absolutely risen to the challenge.
If you asked most neutral fans how they'd remember these Finals if it continues the way it's gone, they'd note the epic LeBron-Durant duel, the excitement levels in crunch time, or how so much of the supporting cast (Shane Battier excepted) suffered at the hands of their opponents. Only observers with an angle would remember this series for its referees.
Oh, hey CBS Sports agitator Gregg Doyel. Sup?
The Heat might just be two games away from winning a championship, and if this trend continues, we'll remember these as the NBA Finals that were decided by an official's call.
Doyel missed an important few words here. Let's help him out.
The Heat might just be two games away from winning a championship, and if this trend continues, fans who root for the Thunder and lack the ability to see reason or live to troll LeBron James will remember these as the NBA Finals that were decided by an official's call.
And if you don't think that Gregg Doyel lives to troll LeBron James, I would like to remind you what he did at the 2011 NBA Finals.
I mean, someone's got to give voice to disenfranchised masses who hate LeBron, think the NBA is fixed and are miserable people. What an untapped market. See for yourself!
Thank the Lord that someone is grasping for the zeitgeist bridging Peter Vecsey, Skip Bayless and YouTube commenters. It's a new day for America.
Doyel's column is patently absurd, though not quite as absurd as his Game 2 column blaming the Thunder's loss on Russell Westbrook (wait, I thought it was the refs that blew that one too?) or the column in which he suggested that Scott Brooks replace Westbrook at point guard with the "more cerebral" James Harden, who has looked like the second coming of Larry Hughes in this series to date.
The best part of all of this to me is the lack of skepticism Doyel shows for any of the calls that have gone Oklahoma City's way ... especially in Game 1, the Thunder's single win in the series, or once Durant had picked up five fouls in Game 2. Doyel proclaims that 100 percent of the 50-50 calls have gone LeBron's way ... and then talks about two plays. In reality, as acknowledged by just about every writer who covers the NBA beyond just the playoffs, this has been a fairly even series in terms of whistles. The non-call at the end of Game 2 was the only call that really stands out above the normal tidal churn of NBA officiating. Even that call would have gone unnoticed (or unanalyzed) in the regular season.
Harden was downright awful in Game 3. He had no ability to stop LeBron, and defending the best player in the world clearly took enough wind out of his sails to make the bearded one a minus on offense. Brooks was searching, and Harden wasn't the rock he was looking for. Harden really had no alternative than to create a nuisance for LeBron on that final Heat possession, because the evidence showed he wouldn't be able to stop him straight up (even if Miami played into OKC's hands by running down the clock and taking a long jumper). So he reached in a few times as his coach implored him not to foul. And he crowded LeBron on the perimeter, close enough that if LeBron moved forward, there would be contact. And when there was the inevitable contact, Harden flew to his ass and turned his palms upward. And neither Brooks nor Westbrook nor Durant nor anyone started barking at the refs. They looked at Harden, who clearly messed up. Who clearly cost the Thunder a chance at a stop and a tying three-pointer.
If the roles were reversed, and LeBron tried to flop his way into an offensive foul call on Harden, and he'd gotten the whistle, Doyel would be ripping the refs to High Heaven for buying the B.S. Bron-Bron was selling. And if LeBron tried to flop his way into an offensive foul call on Harden and instead got called for a blocking foul, as Harden did, Doyel would be crowing about how Choker McChokington cost Miami the game.
Instead, the refs got it right, LeBron clinched the game and Doyel decided to pre-write the history of a series that might not even be halfway done. Some things are utterly predictable. Keep tapping that rich vein of bat guano, man.
The Hook is an NBA column by Tom Ziller. See the archives.