When the Chicago Bulls and New York Knicks came to a 110-106 finish in their weekend romp, there were a lot of questions left and almost no answers after a series of unfortunate events that resulted in four players being tossed from the game.
On the surface, it's just another game in the middle of December that's going to have no bearing on how these two teams will play each other if they end up meeting in the playoffs.
Each team is missing key components and could possibly end up making moves before the trade deadline.
However, the real reason this game is meaningless, aside from the fact that one team won and the other lost, is that it was completely out of control—the referees were never a productive part of this game.
Normally, when you hear a person complaining about referees, it's because they believe that their team was jobbed and given an unfair shot at winning because of some questionable calls.
In this case, the referees were fine calling the game relatively even; they just inconsistently and inefficiently officiated the game:
Its been pretty much prison rules in this Bulls Knicks game, not sure why refs indiscriminately decide to call a ton or ZERO fouls.
— Haralabos Voulgaris (@haralabob) December 22, 2012
Going into the fourth quarter, it was 81-58. In other words, it seemed like the game was over.
It was a physical game all the way through, which is evident when you look at one half of the scoreboard going into the fourth quarter.
After a rough first three quarters for the referees, the fourth quarter got ugly.
Instead of trying to assert some sort of continuity onto the game, the game turned into a totalitarian dominance not conducive to entertaining basketball.
Carmelo Anthony was ejected for a hard foul on Joakim Noah. It was a bit of a hard foul, but I'm not so sure it warranted a technical.
Mike Woodson was subsequently run from the game for sharing his thoughts with the officials and having a beard that is too perfectly circular.
Clearly we aren't done yet, we've still got to get to the shoving and shouting match that qualifies as a fight in today's NBA.
Joakim Noah and Tyson Chandler got a big feisty down low, and each of them took offense. That's going to lead to a few upset people every time in a game like this.
What became of the "fight" was nothing more than a tangle of arms, some angry shouting and the eventual ejection of Noah and Chandler.
However, that scrum is one thrown punch away from turning into a full-blown early-'90s brawl, something the league clearly doesn't want.
It seems like the story should end there. The game was an embarrassment to the league, and they should probably erase all memory of it as soon as possible, right?
Well, not exactly. News came down after the game that the foul that led to Anthony's second technical and was the domino to set this game aflame shouldn't have been called a technical foul:
— Jared Zwerling (@JaredZwerling) December 23, 2012
So, what does that mean for the officiating in this game? It was useless. This game would have played out better if it was a "call your own fouls" pickup game in a nearby park.
Rarely have referees been so simultaneously in and out of control. It was a type of officiating that says, "We're not sure exactly what we should do, but we should definitely do something."
What will it take to avoid something like this happening on a regular basis?
First, I've got to say that this game is not the fault of the players. They're going to play as rough as the referees allow, and in this game the referees allowed too much, leading to a ridiculous knee-jerk reaction in the fourth quarter.
The referees need a competent game plan coming into the game in order to avoid these games coming around more often.
Rough play is not bad for the league's image, but poorly officiated games are.