Cosmic Significance

Posted by Rob Mahoney on March 6, 2012 under Commentary | 31 Comments to Read

Screen shot 2012-03-06 at 3.55.46 PM

As a general life philosophy, I find it prudent to worry solely about what can be controlled. There are an infinite number of forces in the universe — each with varying levels of significance — and nothing much good can come from addressing the untouchable.

Living things die. Forces of nature collide in horrid natural disasters. Planets wither away. Massive stars supernova. And sometimes, oddly enough, NBA referees botch calls.

It happens, and it certainly happened on Monday night, when Ian Mahinmi was tagged on a highly questionable — but entirely crucial — foul call that gave the Oklahoma City Thunder a pair of go-ahead free throws with 46 seconds remaining. It was a rough call on what appeared to be a perfectly legal defensive play, and at the risk of sounding entirely dismissive of the ordeal, I’d offer this: Move on.

Games aren’t won or lost on a single possession, no matter what the officiating crew elects to call or not call. An entire game is predicated on opportunity after opportunity, and while there’s no question that those final moments live under a microscope, a singular bad call is nothing more than a singular bad call. It seems to make a world of difference given them game’s particularly competitive fiber, but the two free throws Serge Ibaka made to “win the game,” didn’t effectively win the game. Credit the Thunder’s rebounding, their offensive persistence, any of OKC’s stars, the Mavs’ injuries, Jason Terry’s freelancing, or Ian Mahinmi’s slow second half, but Monday’s game — like all other NBA games that came before it — was decided by players.

Jason Kidd doesn’t think so, and in the process, embraced an all-too familiar Maverick refrain. This team has an incredibly persistent victim complex; everything denied them is apparently done so out of principle, and is perceived as a slight of their championship standing. No action is neutral, as every great injustice done to the Mavs is apparently a very targeted lack of respect. Unfortunately for Kidd, I think the real answer is something far less nefarious, and far less interesting: referees aren’t perfect, and the Mavs’ playing style does them no favors.

There’s no question that a player’s ability to draw fouls is linked to his reputation, but the Thunder were good at earning free throws long before they were good overall or remotely esteemed. Then, as Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook learned the nuances of the NBA game (and added James Harden to the mix, for that matter), their collective potential for foul-drawing exploded. That final foul against Ian Mahinmi was a non-sequitur in relation to the free throw disparity; OKC gets to the line at an incredible rate, the Mavericks do not, some individual mistakes were inevitably made on the part of the referees, and that was that. No officials are meeting in back rooms, crafting plans that will lead to the Mavs’ demise. It’s just basketball, and that the members of this team can continue to claim disrespect and injustice considering the postseason and off-season they enjoyed — in which the players were not only treated as victors, but conquering heroes who dispatched the mighty Heat — is baffling.

The officiating in Monday night’s game was imperfect, but the judgment of the whistle-blowers is a force beyond you and I, beyond Kidd and Carlisle. Whether you’re a Maverick or merely a Maverick fan, shake your head. Jeer and question. Criticize the officiating for a play or a game. But know that doing so, especially in a manner that suggests deep-seeded, long-term, and unconscious bias on the part of referees, crosses a line from unconstructive to laughable. It’s an attempt to comprehend the uncontrollable, and while that effort to rationalize is wholly understandable, sometimes life is far too simple for that.

  • http://twitter.com/KirkSeriousFace Kirk Henderson

    Fair enough, Rob. I certainly don't feel the Mavs have been victims this season. But that were hosed last night on repeated calls or non calls, and in a four point game that is maddening.

    I do expect the Mavericks play style to become more consistent come playoffs. They simply have to attack more to get the calls they want.

  • j0Shi_f

    In my eyes the NBA is the association that overprotects their referees like no one else, throwing out fines to keep everybody's mouth shut, therefore communicating to the public that officiating has no impact whatsoever, which is… well… neither true nor honest.

    In other sports (in Europe) the discussion about officiating is rather lively, evaluating and commenting on bad calls (often by retired refs) is part of the regular coverage, refs know they will held responsible for the crap they whistle. It's a better approach, they have to defend themselves and can't hide behind anyone.

    The judgment of the whistle-blowers is only a force beyond you and I because the NBA allows it to be.

    • Pest

      its called a union… in case you were wondering why they dont do it like Europe

  • Guest

    Your criticism here is spot on, but when have the Mavericks displayed a victim complex before?  

    • finzent

       Agree with the question. Kidd's comment was a bit silly, but I don't feel like, in general, they are complaining about refereeing more than other teams.

      • http://www.thetwomangame.com/ Rob Mahoney

        It's about the refereeing in part, but it's equally about the “lack of respect.” Dallas may not have harped on the refs post-game more than the average team, but the idea that they're being disrespected — by “the media,” fans, opposing teams, refs…pretty much everyone — has been an annoying point of repetition. Kidd, Terry, Marion, and even Dirk are all guilty of it, and refuse to drop the point.

  • Justin Peabody

    The ability to draw fouls goes both ways. In a similar light, refs are often quick to charge someone with a reputation like Kendrick Perkins with a foul, or a technical, where a player with a lesser reputation might not receive such a penalty.

  • Mob

     Lots of big words and flowery language, not much logic. You didn't even address Kidd's point. Past champions have gotten the refs' benefit of doubt all the time, only the Mavs haven't.

  • adam

    Did someone just call you a homer and make you feel obligated to write this post?  J Kidd never insinuated any back-room meetings.  That extrapolation is all yours.  He simply said that they don't get the calls that defending champions normally do, and Dirk certainly doesn't get the calls that other superstars do. 
    Those claims are both true, and you said nothing to discredit them.

    • Pimmelim

      Dirk got 24(!!!) free throws in ONE game against OKC last year. And that game was WAY more important. And you just cannot say those were all correct calls. Just ridiculous.

  • Lamont

    The Mavericks are still pissed because they got completely robbed in 2006. I don't blame them at all that series was a disgrace for the NBA.

  • PeterPander

    Did anyone realise that Kevin Durant grabbed the rebound on that possession standing about 5ft away from the basket all by himself!?!? So IF the refs had not made the call, OKC would still have the ball (namely Kevin Durant, arguably the best scorer in the NBA) as I said, right in front of the basket all by himself. Sure, it was Ian's 6th personal and so the Mavs lost arguably the best scoring center in the world who would have won the game for them, but come on.
    You can't expect to get the same amount of FTs with shooting jumpshots only. There's the difference between Kidd-Westbrook and Durant-Marion. Drive the ball und you'll get the calls. It's that simple.

    • adam

      um, they stop playing when they hear the whistle.  There's a reason Durant was all by himself with the ball.  The play was over.

  • 84pguimaraes

    Kidd never said they lost because officiating YOU said he did. He said they don't get the calls and they didnt. Its not the mahinmi call. It's the continuation for harden plus the goaltend then the goaltend on the next possession AND the mahinmi call. That's 7 free 4th quarter points. That is not why you lose it makes it much more difficult. It causes frustration. Robby your a bit sensitive today. He's there and he sees first hand protection superstars get when officials are talked about. It works he's playing the same game every coach does. He's making sure this is in officials heads the next time they play. If it didn't work him and Carlisle wouldn't do it. Phil Jackson wouldn't do it. Greg popovich wouldn't do it. Kobe Bryant wouldn't do it. It's the game that is played and it works. Atleast I would imagine it does because they all do it. The good ones pick their spots.

  • Mike641

    Mavs are out of their minds. The amount of fouls they committed that weren't called was Rediculous. I don't know what Kidd expects. To have refs let them hold, shove, elbow and hand slap their way to victory? Theyre old and frustrated that they're not treated like Kobe as a team. Hey Mavs here's an idea, how bout tryn to take it to the rack and forcing the officials to make a call in your favor? Till then keep tryn off balanced jumpers and shut your old dusty pie holes! Thunder Up!

    • Matt Hulme

      First of all, the fact that you said “Rediculous” already makes me discredit anything else you've written. Look, I don't obsess over grammar, but if you're a fully grown adult, and you can't spell “ridiculous”, you're a moron. I don't care if you say you were in a hurry or whatever excuse you may concoct, you'd still be able to spell the word correctly if you knew how. You clearly lack that knowledge.

      As far as your rant is concerned, try watching the game. Holding? Shoving? Dirk LIVES with a defender on his back, and it's worthy of a foul call almost every trip down the floor. They don't often call them, which is fine; that's the game of basketball. But, you see, the thing is that Dirk doesn't need the calls like certain Oklahoma City stars. If he DOES get the calls, he'll slaughter you at the line. But if he doesn't? There's a pretty good chance he'll slaughter you anyway. (As long as Terry gives him the damn ball.)

      Oh, and the Mavs are old and frustrated? Check the banners, buddy. The Mavericks smoked the Thunder in the playoffs last year, and we'll do it again this year. I care about as much for the regular season series as I do for you, which is to say not much. Both teams will be in the playoffs, period. That's when the real season begins. We'll see if OKC is up to the challenge this year, or if they'll wither and die like last season.

      • TylerL

        I would love to play the Mavs in the first round! You guys suck in the second half because you cannot play up tempo basketball. People like Jason “Flop” Terry and Dirk “Crybaby” Nowitzki are some of the dirtiest on the game. Jason Kidd should just retire, as he is angry he can't beat the Thunder like he beat his wife. 3-1 man is all I have to say!

        • Matt Hulme

          It's so sad that Thunder fans come to a Mavericks blog. Just so very depressing for the fan base, which generally has very strong support and intelligent fans. Of course, those fans are the ones who don't flock to other teams' websites out of some misplaced inferiority complex. …Sad.

          • TylerL

            For someone who went to TCU, you would think they would have a higher character then to call someone a moron! You my friend, are the moron. Maybe I will come down to Fort Worth and show you how sad I am! You try to use your words as a way to put people down. Is that little man syndrome or were you bullied as a child? I would think both, definitely! If sports fans of any teams can't go to others website when they see their own team mentioned, is dumb! All I say again is 30-8 and 3-1 over the inferior Mavs!

          • TylerL

            The Mavs just better focus on getting into the playoffs. You want revenge? Will make it there first, as you guys are only 2 games out of missing the playoffs. Your team is old and the contracts are running out, I personally don't think they are a threat at all. The Mavs are not even the best team in Texas! Hell even Houston is better! 

  • Nonnena

    “but Monday’s game — like all other NBA games that came before it — was decided by players.” You seem to suggest that missed calls by referees never have a causal connection to whether a team wins or loses a game.  THAT IS ABSURD.  Yes, usually games are won and lost by players, but to say that an NBA game has never been swayed one way or the other because of officiating is not logical or empirical.  To say that they sometimes influence the outcome of games is simply to say that they have some causal connection with the points that are put up on the scoreboard.

  • Howard

    The Mavs had more points in the paint. Shot less three pointers. They wern't playing soft basketball. Yet, Durant and Westbrook shot 12 more free throws than every Mav combined. The Thunder shot 33 free throws. The Mavs shot 10.
    23 extra free throws will decide a game. I think its a good idea to call these things into question – how can you not?

    • http://www.thetwomangame.com/ Rob Mahoney

      Be careful with points in the paint; if a Thunder player drives to the rim and is fouled, that's zero points in the paint. If a Maverick player gets out in the open court for an uncontested fast break layup, that's two. 

      Points in the paint tells us something, but that something isn't necessarily which team is being more aggressive in their offense.

      • Howard

        Granted, but used in context it certainly seems like there is room for discusion on the quality of product the zebras served up. There are a lot of anomolies in this game. Westbook with 4 times as many free throw attempts as Dirk?
        Surely, its bad form to blame officiating. Pointing fingers is not s skill set that wins playoff games. However, when discussing this game it seems hard to not notice, and discuss, the guys in stripes.
        Why was this game such an abnormality? Were the Mavs soft? The Thunder hyper-aggressive? Were the calls bogus? What happened? It sure seems like the free throwsturned the game.

  • Jacob

    The only thing more ridiculous than the call on Mahinmi was Ibaka's ten “blocks” in the last game. 

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  • Mack

    At least Kidd didn't get a flagrant foul for pulling Lin's hair that could easily have killed him

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  • Fwilliams

    Apparently the words of a hater. I'm sure you wouldn't feel the same if it was your team. Its ok for refs to mess up repeatedly as long as its not against your team and some teams fair far better than others in these honest ref mistakes. This is just one mans opinion and nothing makes it more right than mine.