When the Dallas Mavericks took on Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder on February 1st at the American Airlines Arena, the team had a chance to make a serious statement with a win.
The Thunder are considered by many as the favorites to win the Western Conference this season.
When the two teams met in Dallas last week, America saw a game with a playoff-like atmosphere. Oklahoma City was obviously still upset about being eliminated from last season's playoffs by Dallas, and the Mavs had their championship pride on the line.
From tip-off on, sparks were flying on both sides. Dallas led 29-21 at the end of the first half, but after that, it was all Oklahoma City.
Russell Westbrook tore apart the Mavs' defense, putting up 33 points and six rebounds. Serge Ibaka had a career-high 10 blocks, and the Thunder ended up winning the game by a final score of 95-86.
It was obvious that the game had struck a nerve with Dallas coach Rick Carlisle and the team's ever-eccentric owner Mark Cuban.
Carlisle was ejected from the game with 9:34 left in the fourth quarter after receiving two technical violations. The second was dished out after Carlisle kicked the basketball into the stands after a no-call against his team.
Carlisle apologized to Cuban and the Dallas fans after the game saying: "The incident where the ball got kicked into the stands, that can't happen. My intent was not to kick it into the stands. I was trying to kick it to the referee, but I'm not a very good kicker. ... That's a regrettable situation."
Following the game Cuban called out the game's officiating crew, obviously upset with the amount of no-calls that the Mavericks were getting.
"It all comes down to this: I understand that it's tough for the officials now," Cuban told ESPNDallas.com. "They're going through the same travel stress as everybody else, but there's absolutely no transparency right now. I mean, you get games like tonight where it was just horrible. Who knows, I'm not saying it impacted the game, but you can just start naming the calls.
"All I'm saying is some of these guys are bad. Let me rephrase that. Some of these guys are having really bad nights, and it's having an impact. The league's got to come out and say, 'OK, look, we understand they're going through some tough travel or whatever. It's just the way it is.' Otherwise, if that's not an impact, you have to wonder how some of these crews are still on the court."
Cuban said he was trying to give the officials the benefit of the doubt, as they work with the same tight schedule as the rest of the NBA this season.
Both coach and owner were fined by the league following the game. Carlisle was penalized $35,000 for kicking the ball into the stands, while Cuban was fined $75,000 for his criticisms.
Yes, Cuban was utilizing his First Amendment rights, but what he did was wrong. Whining about the officiating in the way that he did made him seem like a dad at a high school game.
I appreciate how Cuban is as much a fan as he is an owner, but complaining about the referees isn't going to get him or the Mavericks anywhere.
If anything, Cuban should drop all of the negativity and try to motivate his team somehow.
The world champions are currently a mediocre 14-11 and need to do something to turn their season around, as well as get back in the good graces of the likely disgruntled NBA referees.