Just read a thread about the officating in Game 2 of the Lakers-Celtics series and was struck by the fact that even people who didn't have a horse in the race thought the officiating was horribly one-sided. Almost as if the officials were favoring Boston on purpose.
Is that a reach? Not when there's a 38-10 disparity in favor of the Celtics staring you in the face.
I'll admit it. I'm a conspiracy theorist. I think the NBA playoffs are rigged. Maybe not so much to decide which team is going to win, but to create maximum drama so the league's tv and advertising "partners" (more on this in a moment) get the most bang for their buck.
But how could that be, you ask? Wouldn't the secret would get out if the games were really fixed?
Maybe, maybe not. Tim Donaghy had a pretty good thing going for a few years and might still be calling games (including this series) were it not for the DOJ stumbling across the crooked ref in the course of another investigation. Point being, it wasn't the NBA that exposed Donaghy, it was the government. And though the Commish stood up in front of the cameras and expressed shock (shock!) at the DOJ findings, I'm not sure I buy it. I mean, the league was at least blindly acquiescent. We find out later that there were rumblings and suspicions, so maybe 1) the league knew and chose to look the other way, or 2) the league really didn't want to know. So the notion that the fix could be in without word leaking out isn't as farfetched as it might first appear.
The other reason I think the NBA playoffs are sometimes rigged is because I've never been able to adequately explain Game 6 of the 2002 NBA Western Conference Finals between Sacramento and LAL. The Lakers went to the line 27 times in that fourth quarter on some of the most horrendous calls in the history of the game, and I believe it was because the league wanted a Game 7 for ratings.
Most of the time, though, I think the mechanism the league uses to give certain teams a helping hand is not that ham-fisted. Certain crews favor home teams, certain crews are relatively immune to homerism. When the NBA wants to extend a series by ensuring the home team gets a win, it assigns a crew of homers. When it wants to give the road team a sporting chance, it assigns a crew less likely to cave to the home crowd. Pretty simple, really.
So the NBA has set up a great scenario for itself. The Lakers go down 2-0, come roaring back to take all three home games (or at least two out of three to keep the drama alive), and the series heads back to Boston, where there will be huge ratings to see if Kobe and the gang can pull it out.
Finally, is it accurate to call the TV people the NBA's "partners?" Well, that's not the word I had in mind. Let's face it, without the lucrative television package filling their coffers, the NBA would be well, the NHL, or perhaps the NBA of the mid 1970s, when the finals weren't even considered important enough to broadcast live, and certainly not in prime time. Let's face it, the league needs TV a lot more than TV needs the league, and there's no telling just how far the league might go to placate the TV types. So from where I sit, that makes the NBA TV's Bitch.
Believe it's all on the level if you want to, but let me ask you this: Who you gonna believe? David Stern or your lying eyes?