I watched the Game 1 of the Celtics-Heat series at my local bar, and happened to catch Garnett’s elbow live. At the time I turned to my wife and mentioned that he’ll be suspended for the next game. I also had to explain to her who Quentin Richardson was, how important Garnett was to the Celtics, and how the league will review the tape to issue the suspension. Today the league has announced that Garnett won’t be allowed to play in Game 2, which really isn’t much of a surprise to anyone. However there is one other thing that I noted to my wife. Garnett’s suspension is partially the fault of the referees.
I’m not saying that I condone K.G.’s actions, and I think the league did the (obviously) right thing. However, I think should the front offices rewind the tape a little further, they’ll find something that contributed to the melee. Watch this clip, that shows the action on the court right before the melee began. Pierce and Garnett execute the pick & roll while the Heat switch and Udonis Haslem is responsible for guarding Pierce. Haslem’s defensive technique is perfect… for an NFL cornerback bumping a WR off the line of scrimmage. The Heat defender gets his hands into Pierce’s midsection and gives him a hip check altering Pierce’s trajectory.
Haslem’s actions are a clear foul in the NBA, yet the referees failed to make the call. The NBA’s philosophy seems to be to allow the players, not the officials, decide the outcome of the game. By allowing the zebras to swallow their whistles in the most critical moments, the refs actually alter the course of the game much more than if they called it uniformly. In this case allowing for such rough play directly led to Pierce lying prone off the floor. Had the refs made the correct decision and called the foul at the proper moment, Pierce doesn’t end up on the sidelines and Garnett doesn’t throw a frustrated elbow at Richardson.
Physical contact is a part of the game, and getting a foul called on the opponent vindicates the players’ action and allows for them to, for lack of a better term, vent some steam. You can see this by viewing how angry some players get when they feel they were fouled and no call was made. The league did the proper thing by suspending Garnett, but they still have some unfinished business. Referees should be blind to regards of score, location, player, or time. Games should be officiated using the same criteria whether it be the first minute or the last.