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The Rockets are waging war against NBA officials. Will it really help them beat the Warriors?

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Houston’s investigation pointed blame at veteran NBA officials. But the league knew about this months ago, so now what?

NBA: Playoffs-Utah Jazz at Houston Rockets Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

The Rockets somehow managed to pull off their own investigation into the officiating of their 2018 Western Conference Finals matchup against the Golden State Warriors, according to ESPN’s Zach Lowe and Rachel Nichols. What did they find in said investigation? According to Houston’s research — dissecting a full-game version of the NBA’s Last Two Minutes report that they received from the league — there were 81 potential missed calls and non-calls in Game 7 alone.

Houston is trying to make the case that officiating has benefitted the Golden State Warriors in their battles over the past two seasons. Those benefits, the Rockets claim, stole potential points away from their team, points that could have been the difference between losing Game 7 and going to the NBA Finals.

The NBA, despite providing the play-by-play officiating tape for the Rockets to analyze, does not agree with Houston’s math: “As we told the Rockets, we do not agree with their methodology,” Mike Bass, an NBA spokesman, told ESPN on Monday.

The league’s answer makes sense. Houston is trying to claim that calls, non-calls and violations in that fateful Game 7 cost them 18.6 points in a game decided by nine. They’re trying to claim non-calls robbed them of a trip to the NBA Finals. Not an injury to Chris Paul. Not shooting 27 consecutive three-pointers and missing every single one of them. Fouls.

Analytics run supreme when it comes to the Moreyball Rockets. It’s the very fiber of this franchise, from how they identify personnel for the roster to their approach in assessing potential point values to every call or non-call in that playoff series.

But the Rockets may have grossly overestimated their own ability to bring about a swift change. The NBA was made aware of these claims months ago, yet there were eight “landing zone” non-calls on James Harden jump shots in Game 1 on Sunday. Their lobbying may have actually had the opposite effect.

What’s worse is that as a part of Houston’s investigation, the Rockets singled out veteran officials as ones holding back other referees because they are “resisting reform.” It appears the Rockets want the NBA to bend to its will. It doesn’t look like that’s going to happen. And what comes next could be ugly.

Houston literally just called out veteran NBA officials

The three-man officiating crew for Game 1 of Rockets-Warriors featured Zach Zarba, Josh Tiven, and Courtney Kirkland, a seasoned crew with 44 years of experience combined between them. Houston, in its discussions with the NBA, recommended that playoff officials be selected by call accuracy, not by officiating experience.

The Rockets appear to be waging war against the very entity who they claim has robbed them of a shot at an NBA Finals appearance. This story leaked not during the offseason, but in the middle of a series where those very officials be in play.

This is a move that has yielded mixed reactions. Rockets fans believe (and are fed up that) their team has been wronged in their matchups against the Warriors. Steve Kerr believes putting the emphasis on officiating takes away from the beautiful game played between two championship-caliber teams.

But the bottom line is Houston is playing a dangerous game calling out the referees who will now be officiating the remainder of this series with that thought in the back of their mind. If they wanted the benefit of the whistle before, how are they supposed to expect it now?