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.