BOSTON – NBA executive vice president for basketball operations Stu Jackson dismissed complaints from both coaches about the officiating in the NBA Finals, saying Tuesday night that blown calls and missed calls in the first two games were “within the range” of what has been seen throughout the postseason.
“We felt pretty confident that both the first two games of the Finals were officiated very well,” Jackson told CBSSports.com on the court before Game 3. “As expected, in the playoffs in general but certainly during the first few games of the Finals, the level of intensity and aggression is very, very high. You couple that with the fact that both of these teams have a great deal of movement in their offenses and the officials’ emphasis on allowing freedom of movement, and you’ve got a situation where when you put those factors together and you’ve got a lot of fouls called.”
The first two games resulted in 57 personal fouls called against the Celtics and 55 against the Lakers. Overall in the postseason, fouls called are up roughly one per game over last year’s playoffs, Jackson said. The difference has been in the free throws – 72 attempted by the Lakers in Games 1-2 compared to 62 by the Celtics. That’s an average of between six and seven per game more than last year’s Finals between the Lakers and Magic.
“That’s not controllable,” Jackson said of the preponderance free throws, which obviously depends on the timing of fouls and whether they are shooting or non-shooting fouls. Though Jackson refused to give a percentage grade for call accuracy through the first two games, he said the officials are aware of two areas of emphasis based on how these teams play.
“One is, both teams have a lot of movement by perimeter players,” Jackson said. “But also there’s a great deal of post play in this series. When you add up the sum total of Big Baby [Davis] , Rasheed [Wallace], [Kevin] Garnett, and [Kendrick] Perkins against [Lamar] Odom, Pau [Gasol] and [Andrew] Bynum, it’s a war in the paint in this series. And it needs to be called as such.”
Both coaches have complained about there being too many whistles – and the direction of the whistle – in the first two games. That’s just standard politicking in the NBA playoffs. But the pace of both games was slowed by the number of fouls called, and the way particular players have been officiated – such as all the Celtics’ big men getting into foul trouble and Kobe Bryant getting whistled for five fouls in Game 2 – has raised awareness about the refs’ performance. But Jackson said the league’s video review of the first two games showed nothing out of the ordinary.
“I’m just miffed and amazed how the other team complained about the fouls since we’ve been the team that’s been in foul trouble for two games,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said before Game 2. “Maybe they do different math there or something. I don’t get that one.”
The best indication of how the officials have done might be the simple fact that both teams are complaining. When I mentioned that to Jackson, he smiled and said, “That’s not in our analytics.”