Nothing drives me crazier than hearing the same tired complaints about the NBA. When a game is garnering any kind of national attention, the anti-NBA response is almost Pavlovian. Basketball haters are quick to pan officiating, time of game, and the toughness of its participants.
Those criticisms of the sport normally wouldn't bother me, but when they follow one of the greatest games in NBA history, it really begins to grind my gears. A friend of mine sent the following tweet immediately after the Miami Heat downed the San Antonio Spurs, 103-100 in overtime, in Game 6 of the NBA Finals.
Might as well give he Heat the championship now as the refs and the NBA won't allow the Spurs to win. Worst two no calls In a long time.— Alex Schindel (@Aschindel23) June 19, 2013
My former colleague Greg Bedard then fired this off:
That was ugly basketball— Greg A. Bedard (@GregABedard) June 19, 2013
I'm not trying to pick on Alex and Greg. These are people I like, who like basketball, and yet they seem to represent the majority. They can't look past the ugly veneer that surrounds to appreciate the good stuff, which (and I'm just firing off a quick list here), included last night:
- Tim Duncan's brilliant 25-point first half
- Boris Diaw inexplicably forcing LeBron James into tough shots despite the perceived mismatch
- James going into full-on beast mode after getting his headband knocked off, bringing his team back from 11 points down late
- Tony Parker's two incredibly clutch shots, including a 3-point dagger to tie the game late in the fourth quarter
- A couple of coaching gambles by Gregg Popovich, who may be the best coach of all-time, that didn't go the Spurs' way
- A reminder that Chris Bosh is a versatile big man who can close out on shooters with the best of them
- A reminder that Ray Allen is a deadly force
- Big plays by everyone involved despite the magnitude of the whole thing. The Heat were facing elimination for crying out loud. LeBron's legacy is on the line every time he steps into the gym. Celtics fans were writing eff-you tweets to Allen for two hours prior to his big shot. Heat fans did what Heat fans do and left early, then tried to get back into the arena, and yet despite their pathetic fanbase, the Heat play like champions when it matters most. Every damn play was bigger than the next. I feel tired writing about it, nevermind actually playing in the game.
So you can see why I get a little miffed when the first few comments after a game like that concern the referees. Alex (and I'm really not picking on him, he was my roommate in college, I love the kid) gave us the most common complaint about the league. I get it, and in covering hundreds of NBA games I've shaken my head at plenty of calls, too. But the two calls everyone is up in arms about last night were called the right way.
On the first, it was a good no-call on Allen when Manu Ginobili barreled to the basket and tried to make a bonehead play to win the game late. Ginobili took three steps (I've watched the replay below about 17 times). Allen got him on the arm, but you don't reward a player for driving into the lane recklessly like that. If Ginobili was in your men's league, took on four defenders, lost the ball and then complained for getting hit on the arm, you'd punch him in the face. He's one of my favorite players, but that was dumb dumb dumb.
Folks were also up in arms about Chris Bosh's block on Danny Green to end the game. In that GIF linked there, Bosh looked to get about 95 percent ball, 3 percent hand, and 2 percent body. He made a great defensive play. Are you going to reward Green for that shot, which had no chance of going in, by sending him to the line?
I think the tight defense late and subsequent turnovers are what Greg was referring to in his tweet. The game got a little sloppy. Players were chippy. Ginobili would have been given a flagrant for his elbow to James in a regular season game. I loved how James got up and didn't try to confront Ginobili, acted like he wasn't even hit. I loved seeing players dig in and dive to the floor. I loved every single second of it. It dismays me to no end that hockey and football players are lauded for their toughness, but when basketball players show the same traits, the games are "ugly". It's a nasty double-standard and I wish I knew how to fix it.
Us basketball junkies seem compelled to defend ourselves. I wish it wasn't so. Dozens of hoops writers fired off tweets something like the one below after witnessing one of the best games in recent memory:
Just watched my recording of G6. Not sure I've seen better game. Basketball at its best. Refs didn't decide it. Sorry conspiracy theorists— Mark Montieth (@MarkMontieth) June 19, 2013
The conspiracy theorists won't go away, but I wish they'd be a little more quiet about it. Leave hoop-heads alone. We've got a basketball game to watch.