Four technical fouls were called against the Boston Celtics in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Finals series with the Miami Heat, but the officials were not responsible for their defeat. Three of the technicals came in the first half, and the Celtics were still very much in the game at halftime.
Game 2 was a different story.
I never blame officials for the result of a game. I believe that teams always have an opportunity to make plays that transcend bad calls.
That being said, Game 2 of the Celtics-Heat series was the worst officiated game I have seen in some time. Scratch that; Game 2 of the Celtics-Heat series was the poorest display of officiating I have ever seen.
I am a huge NBA fan. When I hear fans of other professional sports tell me how the NBA is rigged and bring up the Tim Donaghy scandal, I am always the first one to wholeheartedly defend the league and its referees.
But there is no defending what happened last night.
Greg Stiemsma entered Game 2 with just over six minutes remaining in the first quarter. A little over three minutes later, Stiemsma had four fouls and was forced to the bench, forcing Kevin Garnett to prematurely reenter the game.
It is suspicious that a player could rack up so many fouls in such a short period of time, but Stiemsma is a big man who likes to bang down low, so his situation is somewhat explainable.
Did the officials cost the Celtics Game 2?
The same cannot be said of what happened to Paul Pierce.
Boston's leading scorer fouled out with 47 seconds left in regulation. His final foul came on a play in which Dwyane Wade barreled into the lane, turned his back to the hoop and tossed up a circus-shot. Pierce jumped straight up while Wade initiated the contact, but Pierce was whistled for his sixth and final foul.
Players foul it. It happens. However, Pierce does not receive the same benefit of the doubt as Wade and LeBron James on questionable calls. Pierce attacks the rim and is able to routinely draw fouls on his defender, but James somehow picked up just two calls in an overtime game despite guarding Pierce for most of the contest.
The numbers of the night were 29 and 24. The number 29 is the amount of free throws taken by the Boston Celtics in Game 2, and the number 24 is the attempts by LeBron James alone.
I’m sorry, but if there is a player who attempts over 20 free throws in a single game and takes five less than the opposing team, something is not right.
It's not as if the Celtics were staying on the perimeter as they did in Game 1. The team was in attack mode all game long, especially Pierce and Rajon Rondo, but they were still out-shot by Miami 47-29 from the charity stripe.
The play that everyone has been talking about came in overtime with the Celtics up by two.
Rajon Rondo beat his defender off the dribble and took it strong to the rim. He was drilled across the head by Wade, but nothing was called. With Rondo on the ground after the hit, the Heat went four-on-five the other way, resulting in an easy dunk.
Not blowing the whistle on such a crucial play in overtime is not only unacceptable but reprehensible.
I’m always the first one to defend NBA referees, but the officiating in Game 2 of the Heat-Celtics series was so one-sided, there is no denying that it might have cost Boston the game.