Lakers-Celtics: Rivalry of the referee complaints
BOSTON - The scoreboard video screen here at the TD Garden is one of the largest in the NBA, so replays are seen with great clarity. In other words, through green-colored glasses.
The gathering of 20,000 jurors hand down their sentences on plays that go against the Celtics, no matter how obvious. The NBA referees don't ever have a chance. It gets worse when you add the Lakers and Phil Jackson, the master of mind games, to the mix. He started it before the series began by suggesting the Celtics play "smackdown" defense. Already he has sent four clips to the league to review plays.
Doc Rivers countered by sending 11 - yes, 11 - to the league from Boston's Game 3 loss, which apparently was more about the whistles than it was about Ray Allen's 0-for-13 performance. Rivers said Paul Pierce "was completely taken out of the game by the foul calls . . . I mean, he wasn't allowed to play. They didn't allow him to play tonight."
And "they" wasn't a reference to the Lakers defense. "They" were the referees. "Maybe I should start complaining about fouls," Rivers also said.
Earlier in the playoffs, that kind of comment could get you fined. But in the Finals, it merely draws an uncomfortable smirk from David Stern, who was present again last night.
"If there's a series between the Lakers and the Celtics where there's not some chatter about officiating, that would make it unique in the history of this rivalry," Stern said on Wednesday. "Our referees are aided by increased video replay and technology and do their best."
Yes, video replay. It was used three times in the fourth quarter of Game 3. For a game that tips off after 9 p.m., that only allows for more to complain about.
While Rivers has really gotten caught up in the officiating debate - he accused Derek Fisher of flopping as he draws fouls on moving screens - Jackson is the arson who hides nearby and enjoys watching the fire burn.
"I don't think it's any hotter than any other Finals that I've been part of," said Jackson, who is in his 13th championship series. "It's always contentious. There's been a little more focus, perhaps, this time. Perhaps some of it has been undercurrent in the past, but it's always a contention."
Especially in Boston, where Celtics minority owner Jim Pallotta reportedly confronted Stern after Game 3. And even the mayor, Tom Menino, a former high school basketball referee, made reference to the officiating at Celtics dedication of a children's center. "I'm not saying anything," Menino said, "the commissioner is right behind me."
Stern smiled and gestured a technical foul.
Notes & quotes. Julius Erving said "it would be a treat for New York" if a player of LeBron James' caliber was to play for either the Knicks or the Nets. "The bigger question is: Can he handle it?" Erving said. "New York is a little different, as you know and it's not meant for everybody. LeBron's a bit of a homebody, a country boy. So there's a lot of weight and a lot of pressure on him because when you step between these lines, the show must go on. But I think he would perform and I think he would perform on the big stage quite well." Erving was among several NBA legends at the game, including Knicks Hall of Famer Bill Bradley.