May 28, 2008 – The Spurs are down by two with seconds left to play and Brent Barry gets the ball up top. Barry takes a shot that is strongly contested by Derek Fisher and the game ends with a missed shot and no foul.
June 12, 2007 – The Cavaliers are down by three with seconds left to play and LeBron James gets the ball up top. James attempts the shot as Bruce Bowen grabs his right arm and the game ends momentarily with no made shot and no called foul.
Do these two plays sound eerily similar? Yes. Were the outcomes the same? Yes. Were the no-calls correct? The answer is up for interpretation.
The Spurs—Cavs series ended when the Spurs won in Cleveland the next game, resulting in a four-game sweep. The Spurs—Lakers series is now 3-1 and play returns to Los Angeles where the Lakers have a chance to end the series and advance to the NBA Finals.
While both plays are arguable either way, foul or fair, both received no call in pertinent game deciding moments, in important games of important series.
The Bowen foul on LeBron was arguably a harder and clearer foul than Fisher’s was on Barry. Bowen grabbed Lebron’s arm as he went up to take the shot, whereas Fisher came down on Barry as Barry was putting the ball on the court.
Why did both referees decided not to blow the whistle? There are many arguments including the one that says both referees were wrong.
Most important to note is that neither team, this year’s Spurs or last year’s Cavs, lost the game on that play. Both teams struggled for all four quarters, the Spurs failed to lead the game after the Lakers exploded early in the first quarter. In no way can the argument be made that the Spurs were robbed a victory in San Antonio, it was never theirs to begin with.
In an idyllic game of basketball, each and every play would be judged independent of all others, but the real world is far from idyllic and thus it is hard to see any referee making a call with seconds left to lip 48 minutes of Laker-led play. Referees make this type of decision more frequently than most fans and critics realize.
Games are never won, or lost, in one play or by one call, they are won and lost during 48 minutes or grueling physical competition with many fouls, called and not called, and even calls that were not fouls.
If the Spurs, or any fans of the Spurs, want to complain about the supposed foul that Derek Fisher committed against Barry, then Bowen should have been called for his supposed foul against James.
What it comes down to is that supporters of the Spurs are going to see a foul; supporters of the Lakers are not going to see a foul.
Neither team’s supporters, however, have a hand in the game. The referees do. The referees saw no foul, end of story.
Inconsistency among referees is a major complaint in both professional and collegiate sports; conspiracy runs wild constantly regarding game calling. However, this is one instance where there seems to be some uniformity.
Even Spurs coach Gregg Popovich admits that he would not have called the foul if he had the whistle in his hand.
The only thing that can be taken out of the incident in San Antonio, is that at least in the two plays cited here there has been consistency on the part of the referees, and that is something that all fans should be happy about.
For footage of Bowen’s play: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AwO7m-1T9DE
For footage of Fisher’s play: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lDc31xBkBg0