Monday, June 16, 2008


in some circles, talk about the NBA influencing playoff games/series is still regarded as crazy, the realm of conspiracy theorists. one claim is that this could never happen because too many people would need to be involved and there's too much at risk. this post is to show why that's not necessarily the case, using tonight's game as an example.

so clearly the preference of the NBA for tonight's game was a Lakers win, extending the series and the season one more game, and making sure it ends in front of a manic Boston crowd as opposed to a tepid LA one. Dick Bavetta, whose previous exploits were briefly detailed here earlier via Bill Simmons, was made the lead official.

most of the game was called very fairly, with less home team bias than we've grown accustomed to this postseason. however, with less than 5 minutes left in the game, Boston tied it up at 90, and clearly had the momentum, especially after successfully coming back from a similar huge deficit in the previous game. Boston's D was typically suffocating, and had only committed one foul in the first 7 1/2 minutes of the quarter. so what happened next?

4:24 Paul Pierce personal foul (his 4th)
3:36 Kevin Garnett personal foul (his 5th)
3:31 Paul Pierce personal foul (his 5th)
3:23 James Posey shooting foul

the second and third of these were off the ball and very dubious, I don't specifically recall the first and fourth. but the overall impact was to put LA into the penalty for the rest of the game and allow the refs to foul out Garnett or Pierce or both if they needed to.

so the point is that when teams are reasonably evenly matched, as has been the case for quite a few series this year, it doesn't take much to influence the outcome if a ref is trying to do so. there also wouldn't have to be a paper trail, Stern talks to a league official who talks to Bavetta, no records, no one knows for sure what's happened except them.

so, is that what really happened tonight? I'm obviously not sure, how could I be? but the point is that the NBA under David Stern's leadership has degenerated to a point where people paying close attention think that this kind of manipulation is a distinct possibility, and it becomes very hard to trust any results as entirely legitimate.

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