LeBron, Pierce foul out of sadly whistle-happy game

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The biggest problem for the NBA is that the day after every major game we are discussing the officiating.

And the officiating — particularly late in Game 4 of Miami and Boston — was a key part of the story Sunday. There were five offensive foul calls in the second half of the fourth quarter and overtime. Joey Crawford and crew were not shy with the borderline calls. Both LeBron James and Paul Pierce fouled out offensive fouls.

Every fan base is sure the officials are out to screw them, and like any good conspiracy theory there is just enough “evidence” fuel the speculation. Thing is, in this case there were just a series of bad calls.

Like the call that fouled LeBron out of the game. LeBron was trying to establish post position and Mickael Pietrus pulled the chair. Both men fell. ABC analyst Jeff Van Gundy said you have to make some kind of call there, I say he’s wrong. No you don’t. LeBron picked up his fifth foul on a cop-out “double foul” call and fouled out on this.

LeBron had not fouled out of any game since 2008, which considering he draws some tough defensive assignments is an impressive feat. He had never fouled out of a playoff game. But in this game the calls were tight and there was no “play on.”

Pierce has fouled out three times in the last two series, which seems a strange trend but he’s picking up a lot of offensive fouls.

And he fouled out on one — he was coming across the lane, Shane Battier ran in front of him, Pierce did bring his arm up and Battier went down. Could have, should have been a no call in my book, but the whistle blew.

All game long it was like this. Ray Allen stepped out of bounds then passed to Keyon Dooling for a key first half three. On one play Pierce was fouled by LeBron, but only after Pierce had traveled to get the shot. That somehow was a no call.

And there was no shortage of flopping by both teams all night.

So we end up with another game where the NBA’s officiating is at the heart of the post-game conversation. This time it’s not Boston fans whining about perceived injustice (they shouldn’t this game, they caught some real breaks), it was just uneven all night.

And the bigger problem for the NBA is there are no easy answers out there.

There is not some magical pool of better officials out there the NBA is ignoring. (If you think so, you forgot what the scab refs looked like last labor fight.) More replay all game is not the answer. The game is fast and filled with big men and whatever the officials do they are wrong. “Superstars get all the calls” but then they call some on LeBron and Pierce and we point out they were not good calls. All we can ask for is consistency.

There just wasn’t any Sunday night.

Russell Westbrook wears Craig Sager-inspired Jordan 1s

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The second anniversary of the death of NBA broadcasting legend Craig Sager is on Dec. 15 of this year, a span that has seemed too quick for those of us who grew up watching the colorful sideline reporter.

Sager passed in 2016 due to complications from leukemia, and the outpouring in his memory since from those around the NBA has been significant. While Sager is no longer with us, his memory lives on.

Saturday against the Los Angeles Clippers, Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook pay tribute to Sager’s memory with a pair of custom Air Jordan 1s inspired by Sager’s famous sideline attire.

Via Twitter:

Sager was known for wearing crazy patterns, everything from hounds tooth to polka dost to tartan. I think Westbrook’s shoes paid fitting homage to Sager’s sartorial flair.

Perhaps Jordan would be willing to join forces and put the shoes on the market to benefit the Sager Strong Foundation? I’m sure these would sell well and come at a premium.

Karl-Anthony Towns misses free throw as Mavs fans chant ‘Jimmy Butler’

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Jimmy Butler is still a member of the Minnesota Timberwolves, largely for reasons that are beyond the capacity of most rational NBA fans.

Butler continues to play with a team as they enter the beginning part of the season, although owner Glen Taylor and his front office are professing to still be looking for a suitable trade partner.

Meanwhile, the tension between Butler and teammates Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns must be palpable. It certainly has affected Towns at least in one way, as the Timberwolves big man missed a free throw after Dallas Mavericks fans chanted Butler’s name during one of Towns’ trips to the line

Via Twitter:

It’s hard to say whether Towns missed that free throw simply because of the chance or because sometimes guys miss free throws. Towns is an 84 percent shooter from the charity stripe, so you’d expect him to miss one once in a while.

Things continue to be weird in Minnesota, and this odd homeostasis can’t last for long.

Video appears to show Rajon Rondo spitting at Chris Paul

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Did Rajon Rondo spit on Chris Paul?

That’s the question everyone’s asking after Saturday night’s big brouhaha between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Houston Rockets which led to several objections and coming suspensions from the league office.

Various angles have been analyzed at length on social media, and indeed it was always apparent the NBA viewing public-at-large would get to the bottom of things. Around 9 a.m. on Sunday morning, we came to our logical endpoint.

Thanks to this new video, it does appear that Rondo spit at Paul.

Via Twitter:

The NBA league office is still reviewing the tape, but according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski they appear to have the clip in question in hand.

There are a lot of factors to consider when it comes to the coming suspensions. First, how much Brandon Ingram will be penalized for instigating the entire thing with his shove in the back of James Harden. Ingram also came in with a flying punch to Paul’s face that might be looked at a bit more severely.

Second, both Paul and Rondo landed punches, but if Rondo indeed did spit on his competitor that’s a level of disrespect — not to mention responsibility for making the first move against Paul — that might get him a tougher sentence.

We haven’t seen a real fight in the NBA in some time, where actual punches were landed and things got more serious than just guys running between tunnels underneath Staples Center. How the league punishes these guys this early in the season will dictate to us in the future how they feel about this kind of tension spilling over into violence.

Check out Nikola Jokick’s perfect shooting triple-double

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Phoenix star rookie Deandre Ayton, welcome to the NBA. Please try to guard Denver’s Nikola Jokic in your second game.

That didn’t go well. Jokic finished with a triple-double of 35 points, 12 rebounds, and 11 assists. However, it’s how he got there that was impressive: 11-of-11 from the field shooting, 10-of-11 from the free throw line, zero turnovers, four steals, and he threw in a blocked shot for good measure.

Jokic was +29 on the night and the Nuggets won 119-91. Denver is 2-0 to start the season.