The 2010 NBA Finals was supposed to be a revival of the greatest rivalry in NBA history, but the action on the court has taken a back seat to the referees, who have stolen the show with the frequency of their whistles.
Each of the first two games has been defined by the 112 combined called fouls that stand as a blemish on what has been a very entertaining series—when the Lakers and Celtics have been allowed to play.
At least the officiating has been consistent, as neither team has been able to gain a distinct advantage because of the high number of blown whistles, but the referees have disrupted the strategies of each team.
Boston's signature brand of tough defense has been muted by the referees' frequent whistles, and foul trouble limited the play of Ray Allen, Tony Allen, Rajon Rondo, and Kevin Garnett in Game One.
Likewise, the officials have prevented the Lakers from establishing an offensive rhythm, and personal fouls similarly limited players like Kobe Bryant, Derek Fisher, and Ron Artest in Game Two.
Most observers expected the series to be physical, but I'm sure no one felt the officials' whistles would share the stage with Allen's historic Game Two performance or the Lakers' equally impressive Game One win.
The officials have the responsibility of preventing the games from devolving into a street brawl, but it could be argued that the high number of touch fouls called have helped decide the two games' outcomes.
Consider this: Allen's early foul trouble in Game One set the tone for his poor performance, as he was never able to establish any sort of rhythm in a game that saw him only attempt three shots from the field.
In Game Two early foul trouble for Bryant and Fisher created a similar set of circumstances that really manifested itself in the fourth quarter, when the defensive aggressiveness of each player was limited.
Officiating has long been a point of contention among fans, especially in the NBA, but this Finals series almost has almost taken on a surreal tone because of the anticipation of whistles.
No one ever wants to see a contest decided by officials, and although the Lakers and Celtics deserve equal credit for their respective victories, the officials also deserve some credit for creating the circumstances.
The NBA game has been diluted by recent rule changes that favor the offensive players, like hand-checking on the perimeter, but the subjectivity displayed by officials has often been the determining factor in contests.
No two calls are ever the same, and any fan who claims to know the difference between an offensive charge and a blocking foul are usually discredited by the next change of possession.
This Finals series may be the strangest yet because neither team can claim an advantage from the high number of called fouls, but is this type of consistency really good for the game?
This may end up being one of the most heated Finals series in history, with no love lost between the teams, but the officials should remember that the players and not themselves are the true centers of attention.