There was some serious home cooking going on in the NBA Playoffs yesterday. To wit:
Miami at Chicago: You typically expect the home team to get more freethrows than the road team...but six times as many?! Shaq once again got into foul trouble early, and the Heat only got five foul shots for the entire game (Dwayne Wade had four of them, Shaq just one). To put this into perspective, three Bulls players got at least as many attempts as the entire Miami team. Tyson Chandler [!!] got four freethrows, and he didn't even attempt a field goal! Mind you, I live in Chicago, and I'm actively rooting for the Bulls. While Gary Payton is busy yelling at Wade, the Bulls are a picture of teamwork and courage. But a team -- any team -- getting only five freethrows in playoff game? That's insane. Especially when you consider that the Miami offense revolves around the most dominant lowpost player ever and another guy who drives and slashes about 75 percent of the time. The Bulls, on the other hand, rely mostly on jump shooting, and they got to the line 31 times. Wow.
Cleveland at Washington: Maybe the refs felt bad about letting Lebron James hop, skip, and jump his way to a game-winning shot on Friday night. Maybe Gilbert Arenas' tights were cursed by gypsies. Whatever the case, the Wizards got 40 freethrows to 25 for the Cavaliers, with Arenas making 17 trips to the line to Lebron's seven. Don't get me wrong, the Cavs settled for a lot of jump shots in the second half, and Arenas was being very agressive, but still...I felt like I was watching an old Michael Jordan game from the late 90s. Gilbert was just throwing his body around and getting whatever call he wanted. And, most importantly, Lebron was only able to walk on water during the first half.
Phoenix at Los Angeles: Poor Steve Nash. He has to be the least respected MVP in the history of the league. It's bad enough the refs let Kobe posterize him on an obvious charge (Nash was set outside the "charge circle" before Kobe went up...and Bill Simmons agrees). It's even worse that he got only two foul shots yesterday while the Lakers doubled up on the Suns at the line (31 to 15). But the real kicker came at the end of the overtime session, when Luke Walton "tied up" Nash, the Lakers won the tip, and Kobe hit a game winner. People will interpret the event differently based on their own personal biases, but Nash was fouled while calling for timeout and he didn't get either call. The refs, the fans, and the creatures watching the game from the Fourth Dimension knew the Lakers had to foul in that situation, and Nash was bumped and hacked for two or three seconds before Walton got his hands on the ball. And if you disagree, ask yourself this question: if the situation had been reversed, and the ball had been inbounded to Kobe, would the foul have been called? You'd better believe it. And the salt in the wound was provided by Kobe celebrating like he'd just won something more important than a single first-round playoff game.Kobe served up his own special brand of beef steakyesterday, with the refs acting as the waiters.