GH And Petey's Timberwolves Blog

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Wolves Get Bitched

It's common knowledge that there are a lot of conspiracy theorists out there who believe that NBA officiating is biased. I'm not one of those people.

There is a psychological bias that everybody has that causes this. In poker, it is very common. Everybody thinks they're getting bad beat more than they dish it out. The truth is that the bad things just tend to stick out in one's mind more than the good. This leads people to believe that the officiating almost always favors the opposition. As a matter of fact, I can't think of a single Timberwolves game where I thought the officiating was blatantly in their favor, but can remember a lot of games where I feel the officiating cost them the game.

It is for this reason that I tend to avoid commenting on or blaming the officiating for a Wolves loss.

Despite my belief that NBA games are not "fixed" by the officials, there have definitely been some cases historical cases where the officiating was so bad that even the most impartial observer can't deny the bias in the officiating. Dean Oliver gives several examples in Basketball on Paper. Another example that occurred after the book was written was a Wolves vs. Lakers playoff game from a few years back. After the game, Sir Charles said "That was the worst officiated game I've ever seen." The Wolves actually won the game, despite some horrendous calls, but it took them into overtime when they should have won by a comfortable margin in regulation.

While I wouldn't put last night's game in a the same category with any of those games, there seemed to be one call that was biased and might have cost the Wolves the game. Here's the scenario:

With 4:56 left in the 3rd quarter and the Wolves down by 2, KG draws his fourth personal foul. About a minute later, Jaric misses a three. KG goes after the rebound in the corner but can't get it. The Spurs come up with the ball and move it up the court. KG starts to run up the court when Ginobli sticks his ass out and KG grazes it. The ref in the corner blows the whistle and calls a double foul on KG and Ginobli. It's KG's fifth and he has to go sit on the bench.

First off, the contact was entirely incidental. This type of thing goes on all the time. Second of all, Ginobli initiated all the contact. But the thing that really made me question the integrity of the call was that he called a double foul. Had he just called a foul on KG I would have merely though it was a horrendous call and not a biased one. But the thing is, he can't call a foul on KG there because Ginobli initiated all the contact.

Every double foul I've seen called in the NBA involves two people who are really struggling and wrestling with each other. The don't call a foul in the backcourt when two people just bump into each other. But like I said, he can't just call a foul on KG here, so the only way to call a foul on KG is to call a double foul, and calling a double foul here simply doesn't make any sense.

The timing seemed a bit strange as well (though I'm getting a bit into conjecture here). KG's fourth personal was still fresh in everybody's mind. It seems as though the official had this fresh in his mind, and was just looking for a chance to send KG to the bench.

Am I being reasonable here, or have I become everything I ever hated?