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The New NBE: National Basketball Entertainment

DENVER - MAY 25:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers looks over at referee Ken Mauer in the second half before he was given a technical foul against the Denver Nuggets in Game Four of the Western Conference Finals during the 2009 NBA Playoffs at Pepsi Center on May 25, 2009 in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Michael Del MuroCorrespondent IMay 26, 2009

I thought the WWE moved their Monday Night Raw to Los Angeles last night. At the Nuggets' Pepsi Center we saw arm locks, flying tackles, and intentional trips.

Not only that, but the "basketball game" between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Denver Nuggets that took place there, plus the ridiculous treatment of "The King" Sunday night in Orlando will only increase the cries that, like the WWE, the NBA is scripted.

But for some reason no one talks about that.

Instead, after the Nuggets defeated the Lakers 120-101, we hear things like "the Nuggets were the aggressors out there" and "they had more energy than the Lakers."

By the way, both of the statements are partially true, but the analyses are incomplete.

We should've heard "the Nuggets were the aggressors out there because the officials did not call the game equally. Here are some examples."

Then the folks at ESPN or TNT should have edited together a montage of touch calls and pushes in the back being called on the Lakers' defensive end of the court and then the non-calls at the Denver end.

Instead we had to wait for Lakers Coach Phil Jackson to say as much during his post-game press conference: "So as the momentum changes in a ball game like that and the refereeing then becomes where you're always on your heels, guys are in foul trouble, then you are not the aggressor anymore. Then you're the guy that's defensively playing the game. And that's what I don't like."

While the statistics show an unevenly called game—31 personal fouls for the Lakers to 24 for the Nuggets and 49 free throws for Denver versus 35 for Los Angeles—they don't tell the whole story.

Denver, from the opening tip-off onward, was allowed to get away with their dirty plays. Nene and Kenyon Martin consistently used their off hands to get their opponents out of position.

These non-calls on the Nuggets helped them compile a good number of their 20 offensive rebounds.

Even on the perimeter, the game was called unevenly.

Luke Walton and Trevor Ariza did a great job of not using their hands to guard Carmelo Anthony. Instead they forced him to lower his shoulder into their chests and played defense by either keeping their hands down, or straight up in the air.

Melo shot three of 16 for the game, but the two Lakers defenders had 11 fouls called against them.

Walton fouled out after a technical foul and a series of questionable calls led to eight Denver points and basically sealed the fate of the Lakers.

During the press conference, Jackson also alluded to that series of fouls.

"That's not equal refereeing, and those are the things that change the course of games. We want the game to be fair and evenly played," Jackson said.

But on the other end, Dahntay Jones was allowed to hold, push, and even trip Kobe Bryant with a foul rarely being called.

(Stat of the night: Jones played 19 minutes and only conceded two personal fouls.)

Bryant did end up shooting a game-high 13 free throws, but it should've been much more with the Nuggets constantly being allowed to undercut, shove, and hack at the former MVP. It had to have taken Bryant MVP-type control to not pick up his sixth technical foul of the postseason.

Do the Lakers need to play games with more urgency? Yes. Do they need to box out guys like Anderson better? Yes. Do they need to attack the basket more offensively? Yes.

But even if they had done all of these things last night, I doubt it would have mattered.

In the end, it's games like these that are causing more and more people to stop treating the league as an official sport, but instead merely as a form of pre-decided entertainment.

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