Officiating Plays a Big Role in NBA Playoffs

Tony Salinas: Officiating Plays a Big Role in NBA Playoffs

I can tell you right now that the Oklahoma City Thunder have no chance in the world of beating the San Antonio Spurs if James Harden isn't going to shoot any free throws. He and Russell Westbrook kept attacking the Spurs all night Sunday in Game One of the Western Conference Finals, yet only heard one whistle.

Westbrook: 21 shots and 2 free throws
Harden: 17 shots and 0 free throws

How can THOSE two guys take 38 shots while only getting fouled once? You've got to be kidding me. Compare those numbers to what we saw with guys playing the same positions for San Antonio...Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili.

Parker: 15 shots and 7 free throws
Ginobili: 14 shots and 5 free throws

Ginobili was the star of the game because he played very well, AND because Oklahoma City had to back off him a bit when the refs were helping him out. Harden wasn't a factor until he hit a couple of late three-pointers that determined the pointspread winner but had no impact on the straight up result.  The refs looked like they were trying to get the Spurs a win in Game One. They did.

Okay, maybe I'm being too harsh. But, you have to admit that it's strange to see Westbrook and Harden combine for 38 shots and 2 free throws given their styles of play...and given what we've seen in other playoff games this season. Harden shot 40 free throws in five games vs. the Lakers, and 31 free throws in four games vs. the Mavericks. He's averaging about eight a game and fell back to ZERO! Give me a break.

There will be outrage from the media if this continues, because the media loves sticking up for victims. So, I expect we'll see Westbrook and Harden get to the line more often in Game Two...and possibly have a field day in one of their home games (refs usually play to the crowd in Game Three, which is the home opener for the series underdog...we saw that in the last round). Be sure you keep that in mind as you handicap the rest of this series. And think about officiating in the Eastern Finals too, that begin Monday Night on ABC

  • If the refs protect LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, this is going to be a Miami and Over series because of all the free throws. Those guys will march to the line, and will score on a variety of dunks and layups when the Celtics have to back off. Remember, Boston doesn't have much depth...so they have to avoid foul trouble.

  • If the refs let the defenses play (which is Boston's only hope), then this is going to be a Boston and Under series. The Celtics can overcome a lack of depth and keep James and Wade away from the rim if they're allowed to play more physically.

  • If the refs start to get criticized in the media for too much of one approach or the other, then you'll see at least one flip-flop from one extreme to the other. That's a big part of what's behind the longterm success of the TONY SALINAS ZIG ZAG THEORY.

Handicapping the playoffs means understanding the teams AND the officiating probabilities as each series progresses. I can help you with that through the rest of the postseason if you purchase my daily picks here at the website...or if you sign up for full playoff program at a discounted rate. If you have any questions call my office at 1-888-536-8880.

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