Danny Crawford has refereed 18 Maverick playoff games since 2001, and yes, Dallas has registered a ridiculous 2-16 record in those contests. That’s not only statistically significant, but adorned with flashing lights and warning signs; as much as we’d like to sweep all of this under the rug, the numbers are glaring, particularly in contrast to the Mavs’ otherwise solid playoff performance. Something could very well be up with Crawford, to a degree that impacts his ability to officiate a Maverick game fairly.
We just don’t know. That record (in addition to any foul differential, free throw differential, or other miscellaneous refereeing measure you can conjure) tells us to be on the lookout, but not to indict.
I offer this with absolute certainty: there is no more dreadful playoff narrative than one involving officiating. Referees are the supposedly impartial mediators of any athletic contest, and once their credibility — for reasons of bias, not necessarily ineptitude — comes into question, the entire discourse falls further and further into the abyss.
So tonight, watch the game carefully, and keep an eye on Crawford. Be skeptical if you will, but don’t go hunting for evidence of a conspiracy. The sheer improbability of the Mavs’ performance in Crawford’s games unfortunately demands that fans of the Mavs and the league at large be alert, but not that anyone subscribe to paranoia, madness, or defeatism. Fans of a team wronged can sometimes engage in the type of tribalism that isn’t healthy for anyone involved, so please, please, stay reasonable. We’re going to see how things play out, in a crucial Game 2 between the Mavs and Blazers, with the Crawford subplot running in the background.
Hopefully this is the closest it ever gets to center stage.