I am not a person that ever likes to put the decision of a game, regardless of the sport, on any single or group of officials. I never am one to believe referees or umpires have enough of a say over a game to actually determine it’s outcome. But tonight’s Heat-Thunder showdown in Oklahoma City pushed me as close to changing that thought process, at least in terms of an NBA game.
The Thunder were the better team, but the Heat barely had a chance to get into the flow of the game. Coming into the potential Finals matchup, I expected to see a free flowing, high offense game with both teams getting big offensive contributions from their respective stars. That did not happen.
The very first possession of the game was a sign of things to come for Miami. Careless and unnecessary turnover after careless and unnecessary turnover. Even committing a season high 21, they still were within three possessions of the Thunder within the final 5 minutes. That was the biggest reason for the Heat losing this game. Their offensive fluency was awful and their execution was unacceptable. The Thunder offered the Heat a taste of their own medicine, capitalising on the turnovers with fast breaks and crowd rallying dunks.
Durant was scolding hot in the first half, and has, at the worst, the second hardest jump shot to defend in basketball, behind only Nowitzki. Durant’s superior length on virtually every player in the league gives him a huge advantage over his defender, regardless of it being the game’s best in James. He has a comparable explosion into his jumper to Carmelo Anthony, making it even more difficult to alter the shot. He was largely unsighted through the final period, but the damage had been done.
Irrelevant to the Heat loss, I was simply unable to enjoy the game. If Miami lose but it’s a good game of basketball, as it should have been, then who can really complain? But when the calls are so one sided I basically sat through the 48 with my arms folded and brow furrowed. James, Wade and Bosh were all hacked numerous times by the insufferable Kendrick Perkins, heading to the line a combined 14 times, just over half of their average. James was 1/1 from the free throw line. You can determine that as not being aggressive, but then you didn’t watch the same game. Fouled on lay ups, fouled in pick and rolls and the worst of which was Durant’s blatant slap on his forearm as he faded over the Thunder star. The replay confirmed my anger filled suspicions.
The worst call of the game was just about as bad a call as I have ever seen in my lifetime of watching professional basketball. Early in the third quarter James gave it to Bosh in the mid post, who faced up Ibaka as James ran a screen off the ball handler. Durant ran straight into Bosh, who still had the ball, to which Bosh lost control and the Thunder went down the other end and embarked on a huge run. I rewinded my broadcast several times in disbelief of what I had just seen. I am not sure how the officials deemed Bosh to be setting a screen WITH THE BALL AND HIS BACK TURNED, but that just about did it for me.
The Thunder now take the outright second best record in the league, with Miami now facing an uphill challenge to gain home court throughout the playoffs.