So I've dealt with some very severe personal struggles about how to accurately analyze this game. Personally I feel some very strong emotions about the the final 5 minutes of game 4 and how the game was refereed. I traditionally have chosen not to comment on refereeing unless doing so under some sort of "impartial" guise, but in this instance that may be impossible. Rather than toy with some unachievable mask of objectivity which would inevitably be drenched in disingenuous posturing, I've decided to let the full extent of my feelings flow freely. Let's get down to business:
I think the refereeing in the final 5 minutes of game 4 between the Lakers and Spurs was bullshit. B.U.L.L.S.H.I.T. Bullshit. Every single time a Spur drove into the lane, a Laker made body to body contact with him. The Spurs never received a foul call and there is nothing inherently wrong with that. The injustice (or what I have so originally renamed BULLSHIT) occurred when every Laker that drove to the lane and drew body to body contact with a Spur received a foul call. This reached its breaking point when Lamar Odom blatantly reached over the back for an offensive rebound and drew a defensive foul nonetheless.
Listen, any NBA realist will admit that Stern and the Association have an economic interest in seeing certain teams succeed. The Spurs have been a part of several of the least watched NBA Finals in the history of the league. But at a certain point the preference for profit over principle becomes unbearable and I believe that point is now. There is something rotten in the House of Stern. I will, at least for the time being, make no mention of the fact that Joe Crawford, in his enduring wisdom and unassailable impartiality, was chosen to referee this crucial game. I, for one, can't think of a single instance in the history of the Spurs franchise which would disqualify him from being fit to serve in such a capacity.
But I am picking at the scraps of Stern's table. If I am to gnarl at the meat of the issue, I must address the final shot, taken by Brent Barry. In the NBA there is a precedent. When a Shooter pump-fakes and causes a defender to leave his feet, and that defender, out of control, brings his body down on top of the shooter, a foul is called. Continuation is granted according to the motion and intention of the shooter, but at minimum a foul is called. During the final moments of the Spurs-Lakers game this evening, Brent Barry pump faked, causing Derek Fisher to rise into the air. Fisher, unable to avoid Barry, brought down his torso and elbow on Barry's body. Barry, unable to avoid contact, was physically restricted from taking a shot. In every single NBA game I have ever witnessed, what transpired in the final moments of game 4 between the Lakers and Spurs is called a "foul." Spell it with me now. F.O.U.L. That's right, a f-o-u-l. Take your time if you have difficulty pronouncing it.
Now many players traditionally receive a foul in that situation. Some where purple and gold. Others green and white. Unluckily the individual shooting in the play just described was wearing silver and black, which disqualifies him from actually getting a fair call. There is a player presently, of the purple and gold variety, with the surname Bryant, that would receive such a call repeatedly and without question. I assure you if anybody made as much contact with Kobe as Fisher made with Barry the call would have been automatic. But then again, a Spurs-anybody final isn't going to bring in the big bucks now is it? So we can't have that, now can we?
Well, congratulations Lakers. You played a decent game and were launched solidly over the hump in Sterns booster chair. I'll be honest with you. I think this Lakers team has more talent than the Spurs. I think this Lakers team is better than the Spurs. I have said for sometime that if the Spurs were going to make it out of the Western Conference it was going to take a victory over a superior squad and the squad I was referring to was none other than the Los Angeles Lakers. But, I'm sorry, I give them no credit on this evening. If they take this series, I will be a gracious loser. I will commend them on their poise and their focus, and wish them luck in the NBA Finals. But on this evening they will receive no such commendations. They didn't deserve to lose tonights game, but they sure as hell didn't deserve to win it either.
On that note, lets discuss the type of things that traditionally are supposed to determine the outcome of a game, like how each team actually played:
Rebounding: The Spurs got absolutely hammered on the boards in the 1st half. We did an excellent forcing the Lakers into tough 1st shots, but we killed ourselves by allowing so many trash buckets off of offensive rebounds.
Ginobili: Well, way to not show up Manu. Listen, I know your finger is messed up and you have an arthritic ankle, etc... but a 2-1 game at home down in the Western Conference finals is a must win game and its important that your top scorer put up more than 7 points on 2-8 shooting.
Barry: the white Jesus played tremendously this evening. He shot 7-14 from the field and his 23 points were a classic example of the type of gutsy veteran play that has put this team over the top time and time again. But it wasn't just his shooting. His 5 rebounds and 2 steals also played a crucial role in the the ability of the Spurs to stay competitive in this game. Sadly, his heroic play wasn't enough.
Lakers Role Players: In a first half in which Odom decided to disappear again (can we officially put to rest this idea that Odom is some huge match-up problem for the Spurs even though they have held him to his worst numbers of the playoffs?), Luke Walton and Vladimir Radmanovic stepped up to ensure the Lakers maintained the lead. Role Players don't need to win it for you, but the effort those guys put in during the first half is crucial to the chemistry that creates a championship team.
Turnovers: The Lakers had a lot more turnovers than the Spurs (14-8), but something about the fact that several of the Spurs TO's ended in an open Kobe Bryant dunk felt more significant, didn't it?
Ime Udoka: One rebound, one assist, one personal foul, 0-0 from the field in 8:25 of play. We could have used a tad bit more from you there, Ime.
Finley: Whatever tonights outcome, the argument of who is a more effective part of this Spurs squad, Finley (who had a +/- of -18) or Barry (+24), should be over.
Farmar: I'm really glad Jordan Farmar went 1-6 for 2 points tonight. I hate that guy.
I may or may not be back with extended thoughts on tonights game. I will be back with a debate a friend of mine and I had during the game about the nature of refereeing in the NBA (the debate occurred during the 1st half, far before I was in the mood to spew such venom, and is in no way related to the particularities of tonight's refereeing). I'll be honest, for the Spurs to climb out of their present circumstance it would take an unheralded amount of talent and will. I'm not saying its impossible, but certainly the odds are against us from here on out.