Daryl Morey, Rockets GM, wasted his time cataloging all of the ways the Houston Rockets were robbed by the refs in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals (2018), omitting how at one stretch the Rockets missed 27 threes in a row. Their bricking nearly every shot in that span had more to do with them losing a Game 7 than the refs did. And a Chris Paul injury virus. Unsatisfied, Morey then trolled Warriors coach Steve Kerr on social media after Steve Kerr seemed to mock James Harden. At some point you have to be reminded these are grown ass men, not 10 year olds. With each side being more and more petty off the court, going tit-for-tit, he did this, then, No! damn it, his was worse, the series is being overshadowed.
If you match up the team that took the most threes in the regular season against the team that had the third best three point percentage in the regular season, it stands to reason there’s going to be a lot of whining and prevaricating because what exactly is a foul on a three point shooter? Obviously when you touch his hand, arm, or are late recovering and just run into him, it’s a foul. But what if you don’t touch him at all but he lands on your foot? What if you don’t touch him at all and he launches his butt into your thighs? Yep, that happened in Game 1.
In trying to sell calls, James Harden has done whatever he can do. He craftily links his arm underneath the arm of a defender and then goes into his motion. He slides into his defender then hesitates on the shot. The thing about Harden’s tricks is that they are unnecessary. He wouldn’t have to manipulate the game if he just added more to his game. Like a steady diet of mid-range jab steps. Or, the Dirk special which Kevin Durant has perfected, the one legged step back in the mid-post. But Harden gets to the line or the rim, or launches threes.
After game 1 was a hot mess, Harden begged the officials to let the game be fair. This from someone who has intentionally used a loophole in the game to benefit him.
The Warriors have their own reasons to whine. Mainly Steph Curry’s fouls. Some are legitimate fouls. You know the saying. You reach. We teach. But some of the fouls aren’t fouls if Chris Paul does it. And then there was the last two minutes of a 5 foul Curry playing physical on Harden, keeping up with him, but using his body and not being called with a foul.
The NBA is a league made for conspiracy theories. It is the only sport where one player can carry an entire team by himself, where he is asked in the last two minutes to be the hero. NBA officiating is always under the microscope and the Last Two Minute Report isn’t helping. An official once said on NBAtv that elite players are fouled on every single play. They are just more athletic and skilled then whoever is guarding them. Fouling is natural.
There was the 2002 WCF conspiracy. In Game 6, the Lakers went to the line 27 times in the 4th quarter. Kobe Bryant bloodied Mike Bibby’s nose and Bibby was called for the foul. It enabled a game 7 where the Kings then were choking dogs. There was the 2006 NBA Finals conspiracy when Dwyane Wade went to line over and over and over again. Basically, you just breathed on him and it was a foul. The Mavs had been up 2-0 before they lost four in a row. There was the 2016 NBA Finals conspiracy. The Warriors up 3-1 lost Draymond Green to suspension and the Cavs were able to force a Game 7.
But the thing about a conspiracy theory-and whoever loses this series will instantly lay claim to one- is that the team that is complaining easily could have won.
The Kings had a Game 7 but bricked a lot of airballs. It went into overtime but they were too scared in the moment. The Mavericks had the Heat where they wanted them, down 0-2, but they couldn’t finish the deal. The Warriors had a Game 7 at home and all their stars played tight. Conspiracy theorists are sore losers who need to find a way to explain why they lost, instead of looking at the facts.
This series has all the hallmarks of a dramatic, entertaining fight. There will be heroes. There will be goats. The refs will be blamed because the losers are unable to look in the mirror and blame themselves. It will probably go 7 with the loser out of the NBA Finals and bitter enough to say the refs were out to get them.