As the Los Angeles Lakers were putting the finishing touches on their 93-83 win over the Miami Heat on Sunday afternoon, fans of the South Beach franchise were on twitter, trying to find some way of writing off their team's low scoring losing effort.
Indeed, Miami's 83-point performance at Staples Center happens to be 20 points lower than its average of 103 points per game, while the Lakers' 93 points is extremely close to their 2011-12 average of 94 points per game.
For instance, while Miami shot just 37.5 percent from the field compared to its season average of 48.8 percent, the Lakers were on fire at 49.3 percent (season average of 45.2 percent)—from 3-point land, Miami's 29.2 percent performance was over 11 percent below its season average of 40.4 percent, while LA's 29.4 percent effort was just one percent below their average of 30.4 percent.
You see where this is going—The Lakers won Sunday because they played their style of basketball and the Heat simply didn't. It sure doesn't help Miami that LeBron James earned a +/- of -13, worst on the team, while the lowest Lakers mark was plus two (Andrew Bynum, Matt Barnes and Andrew Goudelock).
In fact, with no Chris Bosh to turn to, there were only two Heat players who had statistically positive effects on this game: substitute Juwan Howard and starter Dwyane Wade.
And that's where the trouble begins.
Wade's 16-point, plus-four performance was cut short when he received his sixth personal foul with 5:14 to play in the fourth quarter and the Heat trailing by seven points, 79-72. He had been called for fouls No. 3, 4, 5 and 6 all within a span of 3:03 in the fourth. That tally included two offensive fouls and two common defensive fouls.
Who or what is primarily responsible for Miami's loss to the Lakers Sunday?
It was precisely at this point that Miami tweeters' collective cries of "biased refereeing" rang out:
- @GHANDI_KUSH was retweeted 17 times when he wrote: "The Lakers is paying that referee."
- @LanceTNational decided to call one official out by name in his accusation: "Referee Benny (sic) Adams is player of the game for Lakers today." For those wondering, Bennie Adams is also the official who issued a technical foul to Lakers coach Mike Brown late in the fourth and he is also the official Kobe Bryant notoriously used a profane slur against late last season.
- @MfWetWet summed up the Heat loss by providing his analysis of LA's victory: "Lakers didn't win the game, the referee's did."
As you might imagine, there were several profanity-laced, 140-character rants tweeted as well, which you are welcome to search for on your own: I recommend searching for "referee Lakers" or "referee Heat."
On the other side of things, Lakers fans rose to either defend the officiating or even criticize the officials for unfairly favoring the Miami Heat:
- @JayDon_RaN responded to GHANDI_KUSH's popular tweet by questioning the statement's logic: "Payn em to tech up our own coach?"
- @SchweddyBalls93 also called out official Bennie Adams, but took the opposite approach used by LanceTNational: "That ref is a Heat fan."
- @sincerelyJAE simply grew tired of seeing Heat losses being blamed on others: "I swear Heat fans have excuses for days. its the ref fault now ???"
Blaming referees or other external, non-controllable factors for losses—known as scapegoating—is counterproductive and rarely factually correct: As I explained in a previous article on the subject, "it's just a psychological defense mechanism meant to shield oneself from responsibility and truth."
The fact that both Heat and Lakers fans criticized the officiating for allegedly possessing bias to favor that fan's opponent clearly demonstrates that theory.
Yet in the end, there is still hope. Heat fan @WaddupYin summed up Miami's loss thusly: "i gotta give props to them lakers , yall shut down the heat no excuses but we lost , its still #HeatNation doe."
This is the healthiest philosophy to have in sports fandom. Referees are paid by the league office, not by any team, they are impartial arbiters of the game and do not care who wins and loses.
And Bennie Adams? His win-loss record for home teams this season is 16-16, with an over/under record vs. the total of 17-15. The last time the Heat saw Adams, they defeated the Philadelphia 76'ers in the City of Brotherly Love, 99-79; prior to that, it was a 2012 New Year's Day 129-90 victory over Charlotte followed by 101-98 victory in Detroit on Jan. 25.
As for Eli Roe, it was a 103-101 Heat win at Minnesota on Dec. 30, 2011.
For Heat fans looking to blame the officials for Sunday's loss, you've got the wrong threesome.
For the record, the officials who have worked the most 2011-12 Heat losses are Marc Davis, Kane Fitzgerald, Ron Garretson and Scott Wall (two games apiece).
Then again, Davis presided over a lights-out, 55 percent shooting performance by the Denver Nuggets, the Heat committed 22 turnovers during the Heat's loss to the Bucks, Garretson saw a 6-17 and 6-16 shooting performance by Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, respectively, against the Clippers and Wall was privy to a different 22 turnover game against the Golden State Warriors.
Gil Imber is Bleacher Report's Rules Featured Columnist and owner of Close Call Sports, a website dedicated to the objective and fair analysis of close or controversial calls in sports.