The first two games of the NBA Finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics have been nothing short of entertaining to watch with the Lakers taking game one 102-89 and Boston stealing home court advantage with a 103-94 win last night at the Staples Center.
Rajon Rondo's triple-double, Ray Allen's stunning shooting performance, and Kobe Bryant being plain Kobe Bryant have made a series that was already worth watching only more anticipated to see how it all pans out. Last night's win for the Celtics featured all of this, as well as Andrew Bynum's breakout game, 21 points, seven blocks, and six rebounds, as well as Pau Gasol putting on yet another show to the tune of 25 points, eight rebounds, and six blocks.
Alas, we still have a recurring problem. A loud, annoying recurring problem. It's a sound we heard go off a total of 58 times for game two and 54 times for game one. Not only that, but it allowed a combined 67 free throws to be attempted in both games one and two.
It's the referees whistle and it needs to be silenced.
The NBA finals pits the two best teams from each conference in a seven game series to determine who truly is the greatest basketball team in the world. It is supposed to represent who can truly step up when they are needed, who has the physical and mental toughness to withstand a seven game series against a single team, and who has the higher ambition and desire to win the Larry O'Brien trophy and forever be enshrined in the annuls of NBA finals lore.
The NBA finals is not a representation of who can draw the most touch fouls and get to the free throw line more. The Los Angeles Lakers shooting 41 free throws is not the NBA finals. Seeing Ray Allen and Kobe Bryant sit out most of game one and two respectively thanks in part to a plethora of ridiculous fouls is not the NBA finals. 58 personal fouls combined by both teams are not the NBA finals.
Yet here we are and nearly 30% of the Lakers points came from the free throw stripe. While we also see Kobe ride the bench because the officiating crew truly thought Rondo might have been forced out of bounds when all in all he basically fell. Watching Ray Allen sit out most of game one because the officiating crew saw him brush up against Kobe's non-shooting arm is not what the NBA finals are about.
Obviously we give the referees the benefit of the doubt when it comes to officiating. There are reasons why some have been refereeing NBA games for nearly two decades and it's because they have remained consistent with their determination of what a foul in the NBA actually is. They do make mistakes and we need to allow room for that because human error is an element of every sport. Just ask James Joyce.
There comes a time though where the whistles need to be capped and silenced for many parts of the game. In a series like that of the Lakers and Celtics, there is going to be bad blood and sometimes you need to let the teams play on. There is no reason why after every replay of a foul call, I have to hear Jeff Van Gundy or Mark Jackson exclaim, "bad call" or just hear silence from the commentating crew when in their heads, we all know they are thinking the same thing: Take me back to the 1980's when Kurt Rambis was getting clotheslined and only getting two free throws out of it.
The bad blood between these two teams that not only stems from the 1960's, 80's, but as early as the 2008 finals should allow for a physical, tight game between the NBA's two most storied franchises. Just because the team's hate each other, doesn't mean they should see over 30 shots from the free throw line. This series should be one to remember because of Ray Allen's eight three-pointers and Kobe Bryant's ability to make miraculous shot after miraculous shot, not because we saw Andrew Bynum attempt 13 free throws.
We trust that Monty McCutchen, Mike Callahan, and Ken Mauer are attempting to make the right calls, no matter what Tim Donaghy says, but the NBA finals aren't nearly about making free throws. It's about which team is striving for that trophy more and who truly wants to be remembered for years to come as either the team that made a miraculous run through the postseason won their second championship in three years or the team that went back to back and got their revenge in the process.
It's time to step aside and allow It's time to step aside and allow Kobe Bryant and Ray Allen to choose the winner of this series. The whistles need to let the next five games play on.