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In defense of Joey Crawford, Chris Paul may have actually deserved his Game 6 ejection (VIDEO)

May 4, 2013, 5:00 PM EDT

We shouldn’t all know the names of certain NBA referees if they’re quietly going about their business of calling games consistently and professionally, without abusing their authority by ringing up players for quick and questionable technical fouls, or even ejections that fall along those same lines.

Joey Crawford, however, is one of the biggest NBA stars among those who don’t put on a particular team’s uniform. As one of the most tenured officials remaining in the game, Crawford has a long history of making himself part of the story at times, which can be maddening for both fans and players alike.

Crawford led the officiating crew that called Game 6 between the Grizzlies and the Clippers, and played fast and loose with the whistle all night long. In total, the two teams were whistled for seven technical fouls (five for L.A., two for Memphis), one flagrant foul (on Chauncey Billups), and two superstars in Chris Paul and Zach Randolph were ejected late in the fourth quarter in separate incidents once the game had already been decided.

Not a great look for the league, obviously. But at least in the case of Paul’s ejection, it may have been justified.

The broadcasters don’t do a great job of pointing out exactly what happened here, even after being shown the replay a couple of times. The best look at what Crawford saw comes at the very beginning of the video clip above in real time, where Paul runs to the paint and gives Marc Gasol a shot to the midsection while Gasol’s head is turned toward the basket.

It didn’t appear to be much, but the contact Paul made didn’t seem to be necessary, either. From where Crawford was standing, and given the fact that it had been a physical game that was essentially over with Memphis up by 14 and less than two and a half minutes to play, you can at least see the reasoning behind his decision to send Paul to an early exit.

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