One week ago the Minnesota Timberwolves hosted the Los Angeles Clippers. The Timberwolves played a fairly decent game and clearly got under the skin of the Clippers in the first half (Matt Barnes threw a punch at Greg Stiemsma, and several others received technical fouls for assaulting Stiemsma following Grant Hill falling to the ground after elbowing Stiemsma in the face). In the second half the Wolves stood no chance whatsoever as the referees began calling a lop-sided game in favor of the Clippers. Surprisingly, the Wolves still managed to make a game of it but in the end the Clippers power play was just too much for the home team.
I didn't watch the Lakers game on Friday, so I can't speak to the level of officiating in that contest. On Saturday, the New Orleans Hornets came to Target Center. Between the Wolves shooting the lights out and the Hornets being unable to hit the broad side of a barn, no reasonable amount of officiating "magic" would have prevented a blowout. I think the game was called pretty accurately on both ends of the floor. This may be the first game all season about which I would say that.
Then there was the Portland game on Monday night. The Wolves trailed by around 10 points for most of the first half. Early in the third quarter they managed to pull within 3 points of the Blazers before their offense went as cold as a winter's night in Minnesota. By the end of the quarter the Wolves trailed by 19. Clearly the home team wasn't taking care of business with only 5 guys on the court, so the refs stepped up and helped them chip away at the lead the Blazers rightly built. Suspect call after suspect non-call went in favor of the Wolves - including two of the latest whistles I've ever heard that resulted in free throws. The referee(s) who made those calls clearly and noticeably waited to see the shots fall out before blowing the whistle to send the Wolves' shooter to the line - I'm absolutely certain that no foul would have been called if the shots had gone in. Then, like their mission of making a blowout into a competitive game had been completed, the referees stopped helping the home team in favor of "letting the players decide" who wins the game. It was an affront to everything pure about sports.
Over the course of three Wolves games within the past week, we as fans have witnessed the entire spectrum of NBA refereeing:
In the Portland game we witnessed the referees using their power to take a game that was no longer entertaining and inject some excitement into it. I, for one, would respect the NBA's decision to use their "selective enforcement" policies in order to make games more entertaining/exciting. I wouldn't like it, but I would respect it.
In the New Orleans game we witnessed the referees calling an honest game. In my opinion this was the best game of the three, and not just because the Wolves won. It was a rather boring game where the outcome was decided long before the final buzzer sounded, but it was honest and that honesty is what keeps me coming back for more.
In the Clippers game we witnessed the referees "selectively enforce" their way to a Clippers victory. This is the most egregious of offenses in my opinion. While it may be glorious to see your preferred team overcome not only the opposing team but also the referees, it is an offense to the purity of sport in its most basic form. We watch sports to be entertained, but we also watch them because they are predictably unpredictable and allow us a glimpse into the authentic human struggle for survival (albeit in a decidedly artificial manner). When the referees predetermine the outcome of a game it robs everyone of the essence of why we watch in the first place.
What do you think Canis Hoopus?