My mind in these situations always floats back to a junior high basketball coach. We were sitting in the basement locker room of our gym when I was in 8th grade and we were convinced the referees had robbed us of a win with a bad call at the end of the game.
“If you really wanted to win, you should have played harder the first three quarters. Leave it up to the refs and you get what you get,” our coach spit out. He was right. Later coaches said the same things, in more colorful language.
But fans never see it that way. After a season of becoming emotionally invested in players it’s easier for us to blame a referee than the player with the blown defensive assignments. And Dallas fans will be ready to blame the referee Tuesday night.
Danny Crawford will be working Game 2 of the Dallas/Portland series tonight in Big D.
According to Tim MacMahon at ESPN Dallas, the Mavericks are 2-16 in the playoffs when Crawford is working.
Dallas is 48-41 in the rest of their playoff games during the ownership tenure of Mark Cuban, who has been fined millions of dollars in the last 11 years for publicly complaining about officiating.
“Not saying a word,” Cuban wrote in an email when asked to comment on the Mavs’ playoff history with Crawford.
Tonight, whenever there is a call against Dallas — no matter how obvious the foul — there will be howls and complaint from the fans. Clearly the league has it in for Dallas, because Crawford was there for Game 3 of the 2006 finals against Miami, and was there for subsequent key losses as well.
It’s easier to blame the refs than your players, your guys. Even if the truth is Dwyane Wade got those calls in 2006 — not all of them good calls — because he was the aggressor. In the NBA, the aggressor gets the calls the vast majority of the time. No, there has to be some vast NBA conspiracy.
Dallas fans weren’t complaining when they had a 19-2 free throw advantage in the fourth quarter in Game 1, in large part because they became more aggressive and attacked more. But tonight, those same fans will be convinced the referees have it out for them.
Put simply, referees do have influence in a game — but far less than the players. If you are worried about the referees, take the decisions at the end of the game out of their hands by playing better early on.
If Dallas plays four quarters like it did the fourth a couple days ago, this will all be moot. And that’s what really matters.