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Replay calls are getting mixed reviews

Both coaches have their issues

By Julian Benbow
Globe Staff / June 10, 2010

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In the eight years since the NBA implemented instant replay, the process has gotten its share of praise and criticism, but the deciding moments of the Lakers’ win in Game 3 Tuesday night was the first time replay had such a large impact on such a large stage.

On three instances, game officials went to the sideline to review plays, overturning each one. The last two minutes of the game seemed to last 20, and the NBA got a small glimpse of the Pandora’s box that the National Football League and Major League Baseball are dealing with.

Though the results left both teams with mixed feelings, NBA commissioner David Stern said accuracy is the main goal behind giving referees the right to review, and that on the whole the league is embracing the idea of using more video.

“Actually, we’re using more and more replay so we get a better call of the game,’’ Stern said. “I don’t think that our coaches could possibly object to that.

“If I had my way, everything would be replayed, except our games would turn out to be four-hour games, and we don’t want that. So some people would be benefited by it and some people would not be benefited by it. That’s just the way it goes.’’

Lakers coach Phil Jackson and Celtics coach Doc Rivers both had their objections after Game 3.

All three reviews were over out-of-bounds calls. Rivers complained about the first one, which looked at a sequence in which Kevin Garnett and Kobe Bryant went chasing after a loose ball. Originally, the Celtics got possession, but replays showed the ball going off Garnett, giving Los Angeles the ball with an 84-80 lead and 1:29 left in the game.

“That’s the toughest call for me, in the last couple of minutes, in the heat of the moment,’’ Stern said. “So we said to our referees, ‘Calm down and go look.’ That’s what they did, and that’s what the fans want and that’s what we want.’’

The Lakers’ frustrations were more complicated. Rajon Rondo and Lamar Odom both lunged for a rebound off a Paul Pierce free throw, and the call on the floor was that Rondo knocked the ball out of bounds. Replays showed Odom hitting it out, but he was fouled on the arm in the process.

The out-of-bounds play was reviewable. The foul was not.

“If it’s just the ball going out off somebody’s hands and there hasn’t been a foul called, then obviously it just applies to one particular part of the play,’’ said Jackson. “Whereas in the rebound that Lamar lost, Rondo grabbed his arm and pulled his arm off the ball.

“So you know, they can’t make that adjustment with the replay, but it’s a foul after they haven’t called it.’’

That’s the can of worms that makes instant replay in basketball different. What happens if, in the process of reviewing one play, you find something else worth overturning?

“You’re going to face that if you’re just going to use videotape one way,’’ Jackson said. “Those are the things that we questioned immediately when they brought in the rule, is you’re going to see a lot of things happening now on this type of thing.

“If it’s a 3-point play, a guy might have stepped out of bounds and no one saw it and he comes back in and now you’re looking at is it a 3-point shot or not, and you miss the fact that he stepped out of bounds. What are you going to do to rectify the fact the officials missed a call?’’

Stern conceded there are downsides to instant replay, but added that officials would rather have the calls correct.

“They want to get it right,’’ Stern said. “They don’t want to make the call and then go into their locker room, look at the game again and see what their mistake was if they could have corrected it on the floor.’’

Screen testy
When Stern muzzled coaches at the start of the playoffs — discouraging them from criticizing game officials and threatening fines if they did so — two of his main targets were Jackson and Rivers. In the Finals, both seem to be toeing the line.

Rivers said after Game 3 that he should start complaining about fouls, like Jackson. He stepped back from those comments slightly yesterday, but said that Jackson’s word “carries weight.’’

“I hope that if Phil Jackson says something the day before and it happens, I hope that has nothing to do with the officials,’’ he said. “And I hope if I say [something] that it doesn’t, and I don’t think it does.

“But I think last night — it’s funny, I thought they got away with more with all the moving screens. I didn’t think it was all our fouls. I just think it was a ton of moving screens they got away with.’’

Seat-squirming
Kendrick Perkins said it wasn’t easy sitting for the entire fourth quarter of Game 3, but he appeared to be less upset about it yesterday than he was Tuesday night. “It’s difficult when you think you could be in there at times and help the team out,’’ Perkins said. “I felt like at times I could have been in there and maybe grabbed rebounds or maybe got a stop or maybe challenged a [Derek] Fisher shot that could have made it go different. But whoever’s on the court at the time, I’m sitting down and encouraging them. But it was difficult.’’ . . . Count Glen Davis among the many who had officials on the brain. Asked what he thought after looking at game tape, Davis said, “The refs. They are some special people. They’re one of a kind, man. It’s hard to be them. I wouldn’t want to be them.’’

Julian Benbow can be reached at jbenbow@globe.com.

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