NBA@2: Refs Cost Thunder NBA Finals Game 2?
Yes, it was a blown call.
Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant had a chance to tie NBA Finals Game 2 with seven seconds left. He caught an inbounds pass and launched a mid-range jumper on the baseline with LeBron James all over him and got the shot off, only to see it go slight awry. The Thunder were forced to foul LeBron, he actually made two game-clinching free throws, to his credit, and the Miami HEAT came away with a series-tying 100-96 win.
Today, enraged Thunder supporters are lighting up the message boards, Twitter, Facebook and every other kind of social media to express their certainty that the refs had it in for OKC, as evidenced by the clear non-call on that final play by Durant.
And there’s no question that LeBron bumped Durant on that shot. It wasn’t enough to prevent the shot, and Durant has made many similar shots while absorbing more contact than he got from LeBron last night. But LeBron did bump him, call or no call.
Here’s the thing, though. LeBron James is one of the best defenders in the NBA, and so gets the benefit of the doubt from refs much of the time. He is also as big a star as Durant, and the refs tend to allow the stars to make the plays that win games. If it had been Mario Chalmers, for example, who bumped Durant, the call is likely made and we might have a different outcome. Durant also didn’t do the smart thing, which would have been to create recognizable contact and then react to the foul. By falling away from the contact, Durant made it easy for the nearby ref to simply let the play go.
Let the stars make the plays and determine the outcome of the games.
But let’s back up a minute . . .or perhaps 47 minutes and 53 seconds. Let’s go back to the beginning of the game, when the Miami HEAT came out as the aggressors and the Thunder sat back on their heels as the visiting HEAT built an 18-2 lead over the first seven minutes and 10 seconds of the first quarter. That run had nothing to do with the referees and everything to do with poor shot selection and rushed shots on the part of OKC. If the Thunder had come out of the locker room with a determined and energetic offense, as the HEAT did, they wouldn’t have needed a missed call at the end of the game to tie it up. If you erase that opening quarter, the Thunder were by far the better team, and if they had gotten off to a better start they would have been up by double figures instead of down two with seven seconds left.
Whenever someone starts to blame referees for a particular loss, my answer is the same. NBA teams cannot afford to put themselves in a situation where one blown call can cost them a game. Part of winning is understanding that referees are human and will make mistakes, and not allowing the fate of a game to depend on them getting something right. A team is asking for trouble if they allow a game to remain close, and the Thunder fell victim to that reality last night.
Thunder fans can only hope that the team will learn from that mistake and make sure they’re up by a couple of buckets in the closing seconds of Game 3 on Sunday.
NBA Draft: Kim English
It’s a strange fact that player who participate in the annual Portsmouth Invitational often wind up going undrafted when the NBA draft rolls around, something that doesn’t bode well for Mizzou guard Kim English. Then again, he might turn out to be an exception. English was brilliant in Portsmouth, averaging 18.3 points per game and proving he can score from just about anywhere on the court. He specializes in knocking down open jumpers, but in Virginia he showed a well-rounded offensive game. He’s also a determined defender, which makes him an attractive option for a team looking for a shooting guard in the second round of this month’s draft.
Here’s a look at English, who spoke to the media in Chicago as part of the 2012 NBA Draft Combine:
Jamal Crawford to Opt Out
It comes as no surprise to hear today’s news that Portland Trail Blazers guard Jamal Crawford will opt out of the second year of the contract he signed with Portland this season and once again test the waters of free agency. The Blazers were so sure that he would do exactly that that they had a number of discussions with teams interested in the scoring guard before the NBA trade deadline. He’s made it all but official now, telling KING TV in Seattle that he will, indeed, opt out.
“I’m a free agent, so I’m excited about what’s there moving forward,” Crawford said when asked about his future. “There will be a lot of teams out there with a lot of interest. I’ll sit back after July (free agency begins July 1) and see what happens.”
In case this seems like a bit of deja vu, be prepared for even more of the same, as the teams interested will likely include some of the same teams that were chasing him after the NBA lockout lifted in December.
The Minnesota Timberwolves continue to look like a team that is a legitimate two-guard away from being a playoff team in the West, and Crawford would be a great fit there. The New York Knicks were hot on the heels of Crawford, but ultimately didn’t have the money to land him. That’s likely to still be the case in July. The Chicago Bulls pondered Crawford before landing Rip Hamilton, and they might be even more interested now due to Crawford’s ability to play the point guard spot, where the injured Derrick Rose will be absent when next season gets underway.
A couple of new names on the list of possible suitors for Crawford’s services might include the Dallas Mavericks, who will be looking to fill vacancies left after the likely departures of Jason Kidd and Jason Terry, the Orlando Magic, who may lose Jameer Nelson to free agency, and the Indiana Pacers, who are looking for a long-term solution at the two.
Crawford’s next contract could be his last, and with that in mind he’s looking for the number of years and the amount of money that will keep him through life after the NBA. There’s little doubt he will get that kind of offer, it just remains to be seen which team will give it to him.
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