Game 4 of the NBA Finals was great fun. The Cavaliers got off the mat and avoided a sweep at the hands of the juggernaut Warriors, and they scored 137 points in doing it in front of their home crowd. It was a really unique sports scene.
But the officiating crew of Mike Callahan, John Goble, and Marc Davis did not have a good night. They let the game get bogged down and slide off the rails at the same time, turning it into an occasional sideshow and not the pure basketball game it could’ve been.
A few problems stand out in particular.
The Draymond Green technical foul ruckus is confounding.
It seemed cut and dry. With 6:18 left in the third quarter, the Warriors defensive ace took his second technical foul of the night. Green had been whistled for a common foul on the floor, and he apparently thought the call was soft. NBA rules stipulate that any player getting two technicals in the same game is ejected from that game. Green would have been in trouble against the Cavaliers for a second year in a row.
Green’s first technical supposedly came in the first half, after he inadvertently hit the Cavaliers’ Iman Shumpert directly in the face. Green appeared to get the technical for an outburst toward an official immediately afterward. He didn’t have much an argument to make, though. This is not a legal play:
So, the third-quarter tech should’ve spelled the end of Green’s night. Even the NBA’s official scorebook, which I’m looking at well after the game ended, says this:
But the officials pivoted. They said the first technical had actually not been on Green, but instead on his head coach, Steve Kerr, for arguing the call. That was weird. Kerr had reacted unhappily to the call on Green, but he didn’t spring from the bench in a particularly combative way. And it looked like his most profound anger was about the technical on Green.
Hopefully, we’ll learn more from the officiating crew about why and how this unfolded. But the feeling I got watching was that the referees panicked about taking a star player out of the game while his team was trying to complete a historic sweep. I suspect I’m not the only viewer who felt that way, and that’s not great. It didn’t matter in the end, but if Golden State had come back from what was then a 15-point deficit, we’d have spent an entire summer talking about this bit of absurdity.
The officials didn’t have a lot of control.
Zaza Pachulia punched Iman Shumpert in the testicles without any apparent consequence, and the teams gathered angrily for several minutes.
The game didn’t have much flow to it. The third quarter felt like it took several hours to complete. (In reality, it took the better part of one hour.)
“It was just an incredibly physical game,” Kerr said afterward. “That was obvious from the beginning. Ton of fouls called early. Lot of holding and grabbing and pushing and shoving. It just got out of hand a little bit. The third quarter, it just felt like the game was stopping every time.”
At points, those holds and grabs were called. Some weren’t. This was:
Iman Shumpert acting like Stephen Curry killed him.— NBA SKITS (@NBA_Skits) June 10, 2017
Is it possible for a team to score 137 points against an elite defense in the NBA Finals in a game that somehow has almost no continuous flow? That’s what Game 4 was like.
This is a series that has LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, and Kyrie Irving in it, among other likely future Hall of Famers. Everyone tuned in Friday to watch those players play, not to watch the officiating crew officiate.