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Our annual reminder to fans: The referees are not deciding the finals

Jun 19, 2012, 8:32 AM EDT

Referee Crawford calls a technical foul on Oklahoma City Thunder Brooks in the first half during Game 3 of the NBA basketball finals in Miami. Reuters

Every year it is part of the narrative of the NBA finals — fans the team coming out on the bottom are convinced that their heroes would win if it were not for the referees clearly having it in for their team and David Stern trying to determine the outcome. You can count on it like rain showers on a humid day on Maui, like you can count on coming across an interesting smell walking the streets of New York.

The last few days it’s the Thunder fans — Kevin Durant keeps getting in foul trouble, LeBron James isn’t getting in trouble, the Heat took 11 more free throws in Game 3 and clearly this is all being controlled by Stern and the Illuminati. And Jay-Z.

Stop it. Just stop it. The referees are not deciding the finals.

Their calls are not perfect, and we can all agree that some of the calls in the last game on Kevin Durant were borderline.

But the refs had been calling it tight on the perimeter all game and Durant didn’t adjust. Plus, Brooks has him often guarding one of the strongest and most aggressive players the league has ever seen, and LeBron James happens to be on a hot streak, too. That’s your problem.

Let me break it down.

• The Thunder didn’t lose Game 2 because of a no call on Durant’s last shot, they lost because they were down 18-2 to start the game. The Heat only won one quarter of that game, the first quarter, but it turns out that counts as much as the other three. Who knew?

• The free throw disparity in Game 3 is because the Heat were aggressive and getting into the paint. Plus you stupidly fouled three point shooters twice. In Game 3 the Heat had 35 shots right at the rim and took 35 free throws, the Thunder took 27 shots at the rim and had 24 free throws. That’s called correlation folks.

• LeBron isn’t getting in foul trouble because he’s a good defender that really never gets in foul trouble. He fouled out in the playoffs last round and it was the first time ever he fouled out in the post season. For a guy drawing tough defensive assignments every night it’s a testament to the fact he’s good. That’s not a conspiracy.

• You lost Game 3 because Scott Brooks kept Durant on LeBron then when Durant was in foul trouble sat Russell Westbrook at the same time, so Miami went on a 15-3 run. But it was still close late and you lost because James Harden was a hot mess. Plus you missed nine free throws.

Again, I’m not saying the officiating has been stellar, it hasn’t been. There have been some odd calls. But that’s not why the Thunder lost the last two games, and if the Thunder win Game 4 it will not be because of the officials. (I know some of you will say I’m pro-Heat on this, which also is wrong. I’d say this to Heat fans if the Thunder were up 2-1. Ask the readers of my old Lakers blog how often I ticked them off saying it wasn’t the referees.)

Not that you believe any of this. Fans love conspiracies. You love the idea of the referee on the grassy knoll actually deciding it all. So have fun with it. Just know you’re wrong.

  1. mrbiz8505 - Jun 19, 2012 at 1:09 PM

    The refs don’t care WHO they call the foul on…. They just care about what jersey the player is wearing..

  2. gatorfan1 - Jun 19, 2012 at 1:12 PM

    You do KNOW there are 2 Gators on the Heat, right?? So my being a Gator has little to do with my post.

    It’s too bad people like you don’t have to take an IQ test to blog…although having low intelligent people on here is good theatre!!

    • gatorfan1 - Jun 19, 2012 at 1:32 PM

      This was for Edweird0!

  3. michflaguy - Jun 19, 2012 at 1:15 PM

    The NBA is quite possibly the worst officiated sport of the 4 major sports. Underpaid and under-qualified referees trying to keep up with the best athletes on the planet. It’s a recipe for failure. There is no conspiracy…it’s more of a deficiency, and it impacts all teams in an equally negative manner.

  4. Mr. Wright 212 - Jun 19, 2012 at 1:43 PM

    Our annual retort to Heat fans (including this writer): Yes they are.

  5. miamatt - Jun 19, 2012 at 1:49 PM

    The Heat live and die in the paint. The Thunder live and die by the jump shot. The more physical, aggressive teams get the calls at this time of year. That’s been Miami so far, hands down.

    There have been questionable calls, for sure, but there always are and it goes both ways. Miami is masterful at creating contact and putting the onus on the officials to make calls. You don’t have to like it but it’s a part of the game and it is a weapon most great teams use to their advantage.

    This is still a close series but if OKC wants to go home for anything other than summer vacation they need to adjust and man up. Can’t wait to see what happens.

    • telynn123 - Jun 20, 2012 at 10:03 AM

      Westbrook very aggressively attacked the basket over and over last night in the fourth quarter. And he only got fouled once. Try that excuse again. All season long OKC and lived at the free throw line.

      I agree that OKC had their chances to overcome and still win. They didn’t do it. But don’t bury your head in the sand about the foul calls.

  6. cantonbound13 - Jun 19, 2012 at 2:38 PM

    Kurt has a Heat logo tatooed to his right butt cheek. Homer!

  7. ceschatz - Jun 19, 2012 at 2:48 PM

    Keep those conspiracy theories coming! All youre doing is making these wins that much better for us Heat fans. I’m thinking that most of the small minded people in here should just stick to watching baseball instead of an actual sport.

    • acmilan1986 - Jun 20, 2012 at 12:05 AM

      Ok, first off to say your not pro heat in this article is pretty ignorant. You want to see LeBron win, plain and simple. When you start defending one team over the other which you are clearly doing, you’re favoring that team. Oh, and just because you say you would do the same if the tables were turned is a cop out response to something that was never brought up. Why are you defending yourself when if you really would do what your saying is true. Would it be great to see LeBron finally win one after being in the season for so long and start to be one of the all time greats like Kobe and Jordan, yeah sure it would. But when is a game not dictated by fouls called by the refs? They completely dictate the pace of the game and like I’ve seen before teams that aren’t getting some calls get frustrated even the untouchable Miami heat get frustrated and start settling for perimeter shots which they were lucky that they were making this game because they aren’t normally a perimeter team. They want to play in the paint and use that big three to force points down other teams throat. I however do think that Miami will pull this one out because of Yes those fouls that were called and not called and the fact that they have more experience, but definitely not more talent.

      • acmilan1986 - Jun 20, 2012 at 12:08 AM

        “League for so long” you know where it is

  8. 49ersgiants4life - Jun 19, 2012 at 2:49 PM

    Get rid of the refs and Have the players call their own fouls street ball style then they could only blame themselves

  9. leeeroooyjeeenkiiins - Jun 19, 2012 at 4:16 PM

    Oh cool, it’s the tired old argument that essentially suggests that the only way referees can impact a game is if they are so overwhelmingly biased they they prevent a team who literally played a perfect game from winning. And with a hint of a snobby, superiority complex to boot!

    Breaking news: that has never happened and no one that complains about refs has EVER suggested that one team played perfectly. Why? Because that’s impossible. But just as it’s completely unfair to expect the refs to call a perfect game, it’s equally unfair to expect a TEAM to play a perfect game. So since neither side can be perfect, what’s the difference? The difference is that no one tunes in to see the refs, outside of maybe David Stern. So when a team royally screws up, we keep watching because terrible collapses are a part of the game that everyone expects from time to time. And when teams DO fall apart, they are heavily criticized for it. When the refs royally screw up, you begin to lose viewers and fans.

    Yet for referee apologists such as the author, this logic is suddenly not applied. No one is allowed to criticize the refs who heavily favored one team, because the victimized team also made mistakes…really? That’s the argument you’re going to go with? That they can’t possibly have SHARED an effect on the outcome with the other team’s mistakes? And that fans can’t be angry at the fact that, despite their team’s poor play, they still would have won if the referees had even been semi competent? Have fun with that, just do yourself a favor and don’t bring that argument to any logic classes that you clearly haven’t taken yet.

  10. gmsingh - Jun 19, 2012 at 4:49 PM

    Well shilled, Kurt!

  11. okiesteeler - Jun 19, 2012 at 5:27 PM

    I will lead off by saying I am a Thunder fan, just get that out of the way. The problem I have with the referees is consistency. You can see 2 exactly the same plays, 1 will be called a charge and the next one a block. I have seen this against the Thunder and the Heat. I just want consistency. Refs are humans and humans err, but at least be consistent. If it is a charge call against the Heat and the Thunder do the exact same thing, then it should also be a charge, not a block. This is what I am seeing that irritates me. THUNDER UP!! Back to OKC we come!!

  12. danoinokc - Jun 19, 2012 at 5:43 PM

    Kurt, you are right. Labron is a good defender as he gets no calls for fouls and can do pretty much anything he wants. Yes, sometimes the judgement is a little difficult however a ball off the back of the backboard shouldn’t be that difficult. The touch fouls seem a little sleazy when the Thunder seemed to be getting mugged under the basket. But then what did we expect. You as well as all the TV commentators should just wear Heat jerseys and quit giving out your occasional compliments to the Thunder as you don’t really mean them. Your bias and all the media’s bias shows through every time you open your mouth and report any thing in writing. This would be a great series if they would just let the players play and call the same for both teams.

  13. seanatch - Jun 19, 2012 at 6:20 PM

    Kurt, you sound like a grandma, “stop it, just stop it”… We all know refs play an outcome in every game.

  14. telynn123 - Jun 20, 2012 at 9:45 AM

    Look, I’m willing to conceed that bad calls happen. You get some, you have some go against you. That’s the NBA. I can overlook one game where those bad calls seem to go against one team. I can bite my tounge when it happnes a second game. But good grief! Three games. Three games where the two teams seem to be playing under different rules. This isn’t about a bad call or two. This is the ENTIRE game. If they want to call a loose game, fine. If they want to call a tight game, fine. But for heavens sake, call it both ways on both ends of the court. They say that in the playoffs, and especially the finals, the refs are likely to call it loose, to let the game play on with small fouls. And this does seem to be case, when the fouler is the Heat. The Thunder, called just like regular season. Heck I’ve seen regular season games where less fouls were called.

    I can say the refs had a bad day one game. I can shut my mouth on a second game. But this is crazy.

  15. joeintamarac - Jun 25, 2012 at 6:47 PM

    On breakdown point #1 of Kurt Helin’s NBA Finals analyses in
    “Probasketballtalk” , the fact that the Thunder were down 18-2 in
    Quarter 1 is irrelevant to what occurs in the last 2 minutes, as is who
    is ahead in previous quarters. Teams are down or ahead all season long
    and pull it out or blow it in the last quarter or come down to the
    wire. LJ did foul KD with seconds left and if KD makes the free throws
    we are in overtime. A OKL win in game 2 puts them up 2-0, and who knows
    how psyched they would have been, and how downtrodden and desperate
    Miami would have been, for the next few games. It was crucial, and the
    biggie ref error of the Finals.

    Agree on point 2 that Lebron sure knows how to draw fouls because of
    his power driving thru the paint . There KD’s inexperience and lesser
    strength are factors .

    Agree re point 3 , Lebron is a great defender who knows how to
    interfere with shots w/out fouling

    And point 4 well, Hardin was such a detriment, the Thunder would have
    been better off if he was on a the DL, or attending a family event. It
    was one of the worst – and most hurtful performances to a team by a
    player in any championship series in any sport. More than in any team
    sport, baseBall, footBall, etc –is there as much involvement/touch
    with the “Ball” by a player throughout the game, than in Basketball.
    Hardin missed shots, threw it away, lost it,- too many times. Single
    handedly almost, it was as if he played for the other team.

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