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Thursday, October 02, 2008

Pedowitz Report Implicates Only Donaghy but Recommends Several Changes to NBA Officiating Program

The much anticipated Pedowitz Report has been released. You can read the 133 page document by visiting http://www.nba.com/media/PedowitzReport.pdf. If you are just interested in the bottom line conclusions, the NBA has issued a two page press release that contains four crucial bullet points:

Along with his recommendations, Mr. Pedowitz reported the following findings:

• He found no evidence that any NBA referee other than Mr. Donaghy bet on NBA games or leaked confidential NBA information to gamblers, and no evidence that phone calls between referee Scott Foster and Donaghy were attributable to criminal activity.

• He found no evidence that any referee miscalled a game to favor a particular team or player, or that the League has asked referees to call games to favor particular teams or players.

• He found no evidence to support specific allegations of game manipulation or misconduct made by Mr. Donaghy and his attorney in June 2008, including allegations regarding a 2005 playoff series between the Dallas Mavericks and the Houston Rockets and a 2002 playoff series between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Sacramento Kings.

• He found that a number of referees engaged in forms of gambling other than betting on NBA games, in violation of League rules. The League previously decided not to discipline referees for these violations.


Pedowitz and his investigators were not able to interview Donaghy directly but according to the report they "conducted approximately 200 interviews," speaking with 57 referees plus numerous team and league executives. I read the entire report and my initial impression is that it will not change too many people's minds: those who believe either in some NBA "conspiracy" to affect the outcome of games and/or those who simply believe that NBA officiating is bad will still believe those things, while those who believe that the NBA has done the best job that it can will say that the Pedowitz investigation offers substantial proof that this is the case. My opinion is that there is no conspiracy to alter the outcomes of games/playoff series and that the NBA referees are among the best in all sports but that the NBA must be vigilant not only to avoid impropriety but the perception of impropriety and that the NBA should be more aware of the personal conduct of referees on and off the court.

It is clearly problematic that neither Pedowitz nor the NBA were able to speak with Donaghy and Pedowitz's report acknowledges this without dwelling on the issue. Without talking to Donaghy, Pedowitz and his investigators basically had to resort to context clues and process of elimination deduction to even figure out which games should be looked at more closely. Of course, even the most casual NBA fan immediately realized that two of Donaghy's most well publicized accusations concerned the 2005 playoff series between Dallas and Houston and the 2002 playoff series between L.A. and Sacramento. The Pedowitz Report looks at both series in great detail but if you just interested in the bottom line here is what the Pedowitz Report concluded:

Dallas-Houston, 2005 Playoff Series:

We have found no evidence of any inappropriate conduct in this playoff series. There is no evidence that anyone in the League office or any of the referees were intending to favor one team over another. Based at least in part on the Mavericks’ complaints, the League identified a type of erroneous non-call that referees had made in prior games and sought to correct it for future games. While Van Gundy continues to take issue with how he believes the message to correct the erroneous non-calls was delivered to the referees, he does not believe the referees or anyone else intentionally sought to manipulate a game or injure his team.

This incident has caused us to focus on the process by which team complaints
about officiating are received and resolved. As we discuss in our Recommendations, we believe that all team complaints about officiating during the playoffs and the League’s response to those complaints should be posted for both teams to see.

L.A.-Sacramento, 2002 Playoff Series:

The game was, in the opinion of the reviewers, poorly officiated. There were a total of fifteen incorrect calls or non-calls. Of these fifteen errors, eight favored the Lakers, while seven favored the Kings. The bulk of the game’s incorrect calls and non-calls occurred during the first three quarters. In the critical fourth quarter, there were only three incorrect calls or non-calls: two favored the Lakers and one favored the Kings. The officiating errors were found to be distributed among the three referees as follows:

• (Dick) Bavetta made nine errors in the game, five of which favored the Lakers and four of which favored the Kings. None of these errors occurred in the fourth quarter.
• (Ted) Bernhardt made six errors, four of which favored the Lakers and two of which favored the Kings. In the fourth quarter, Bernhardt made one error favoring the Lakers.
• (Bob) Delaney made four errors in the game, two of which favored the Lakers and two of which favored the Kings. In the fourth quarter, Delaney made three of his errors: two favoring the Lakers and one favoring the Kings.

The gist of the Pedowitz Report's findings regarding this game is that it was poorly officiated but that there is no evidence that the referees intentionally did a bad job. However, there is an interesting passage about the interactions between Dick Bavetta and Bob Delaney that is disquieting; if two high profile referees have personal issues that may be affecting the quality of their officiating when they are on the same crew then the league should either compel them to resolve those issues, never assign them to work together or terminate one or both referees. Here is how the Pedowitz Report explains what happened during this game and in particular why two rather infamous calls were incorrectly made:

We also discussed Donaghy’s allegations with Ed T. Rush, who was Director of Officials at the time. Rush was present in the arena and supervised the referees during the game. He told us that he was well aware during the game that the referees were having a bad game and making errors. Rush told us that he has reviewed the video of this game on a number of occasions, and the pattern of calls, in his opinion, do not reflect favoritism. He added that it was also inconceivable to him that any of the referees would set out intentionally to extend a series. He pointed out that all of the referees are in competition each year to officiate playoff games and said it was impossible for him to believe any referee would deliberately make erroneous calls and subject himself or herself to having their calls repeatedly reviewed and criticized by the media.

Rush told us he thought that Bernhardt’s performance that night had been satisfactory, and nothing about his performance suggested that he was trying to favor either team. As to Bavetta, while he made a substantial number of errors, Rush felt there was nothing about his call patterns that suggested he was deliberately trying to favor the Lakers. Rush also noted that Bavetta had performed well in the fourth quarter, making no errors.

As to Delaney, Rush was aware that he was involved in the two most controversial calls in the fourth quarter--plays that Donaghy appears to single out as suggesting manipulation. Rush told us that he has known Delaney for many years and believes Delaney is a highly honorable person. He noted that Delaney had been a highly decorated law enforcement officer before he joined the NBA. (Delaney served with the New Jersey State Police for fourteen years before becoming an NBA referee. Delaney’s career included a three-year undercover assignment in connection with a major organized crime investigation. In 1981, Delaney testified as a law enforcement expert before a Senate subcommittee during hearings on waterfront corruption. Senators Warren Rudman and Sam Nunn praised him for his effectiveness and bravery. To this day, Delaney regularly gives speeches at federal law enforcement training sessions and to undercover operatives in the United States and Canada.)

Rush also recalled that Delaney made only a few errors but was nonetheless quite upset with the errors he had made in the fourth quarter. Having known and observed Delaney on and off the floor, and knowing how hard he tried to avoid mistakes, Rush said that he could not imagine Delaney ever deliberately manipulating a game. Rush told us that he had been in touch with Delaney and his wife after the game and learned that Delaney was so upset about his performance in that game that he had suffered sleepless nights.

Rush also told us that he thought that it had been a mistake (for which he took some responsibility) to have teamed Delaney with Bavetta in this game. While Delaney and Bavetta once had a close friendship, they had a falling out in connection with a personal matter some years before this game, and Rush felt that the poor chemistry between the two referees contributed to the crew’s poor performance in this game.

We reviewed the video of this game and discussed with NBA Basketball Operations personnel the erroneous call against Divac and the non-call against Bryant. They explained to us how Delaney and Bernhardt (on the second call) could have missed these calls. The first play, which resulted in Divac receiving his sixth foul, came while Divac was on the floor battling for the ball. Delaney saw numerous players in the scramble and blew his whistle as Bryant was moving in front of him, obstructing his view of the play. The instinct to make a call was understandable; Delaney just made the wrong one.

The second play occurred with twelve seconds left in the game, when Kobe Bryant, trying to free himself on an inbounds play, elbowed Mike Bibby in the face. While Bryant’s elbow, though seemingly inadvertent, was a foul, it occurred only after Bibby grabbed Bryant’s arms in what appears to be an effort to prevent him from freeing himself to receive the inbounds pass. Delaney was positioned on the baseline at an angle that prevented him from getting a good look at the play. Bibby had his back to Delaney, and contact of the nature of the elbow to Bibby’s nose is often incidental. The blood from Bibby’s nose was not seen until later. Bernhardt was the slot official at the time. Bryant moved away from Bernhardt’s position, so Bernhardt also did not have a good angle to see Bryant’s elbow to Bibby. Indeed, the Basketball Operations personnel told us that the television camera had by far the best view of this play.

As noted above, we also re-interviewed all of the current referees after Donaghy’s allegations surfaced in June 2008. There was not a single referee among the dozens we interviewed who supported Donaghy’s claims about this game. The referees told us that the consistent message from the League is to make accurate calls. It has never been suggested to them that they should favor a team or try to extend a series.

Some referees also told us that no rational referee would deliberately make incorrect calls in a game (let alone a playoff game) and subject him or herself to the embarrassment of having calls replayed over and over on ESPN. Some told us that not only was the allegation illogical for that reason, but there also is no economic incentive for referees to try to extend a series. While a referee receives additional compensation for each round of the playoffs he or she officiates, this compensation is the same for a given round whether a referee officiates one or two games in that playoff round.

A number of referees also noted that, because of the strained personal relationship between Delaney and Bavetta, the two men were unlikely to engage in any cooperative venture, let alone one that involved clearly improper conduct. A number of referees also offered the following observation: Game 6 was a controversial game with which almost every veteran referee is familiar. Because it is well known that the referees made numerous errors in the game, it was easy for Donaghy--trying to avoid a jail sentence by providing information about other referees--to suggest that he had a conversation with one of the referees to the effect that two of them hoped to extend the series.

One of the referees told us that he had discussed this game with Donaghy years earlier. While Donaghy had noted the many errors by the referees, he never suggested that he had heard that referees in this game made bad calls to extend the series. We also found it noteworthy that, while referee basketball gossip travels quickly throughout the referee ranks, the referees had not heard any suggestion that Bavetta and Delaney had tried to extend the series.

We have not seen or heard evidentiary or logical support for Donaghy’s allegations about this game.


Any person who is objective realizes that even the best referees are going to miss some calls for a variety of reasons and that fans watching games on TV have the benefit of numerous camera angles plus instant replay, luxuries that the referees do not have; they get one chance at full speed to make the right call. The bottom line is that coaches, players and referees all make mistakes. That is just part of the game. The goal for all parties concerned is to minimize those mistakes. In game seven of the Lakers-Kings 2002 series, the Kings lost by six points in overtime after shooting just 16-30 from the free throw line; if they made more of those free throws then they would have won the series even though the referees did not have a great game six. I think that it is reckless and irresponsible to say that game six was "fixed." I would suggest that anyone who says this take a look at his or her own job performance and consider what standard he or she expects to be held to and if that standard equals the call accuracy that NBA officials maintain.

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posted by David Friedman @ 7:19 PM

13 comments

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13 Comments:

At Sunday, October 05, 2008 12:24:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

anymous reggie

im a big shaq fan and laker and like kobe as well kings had better team in 02 in that series they the lakers shot 27 free throws in quarter 4 the kings shot 6 some of them were a joke that games was fixed without a doubt the league never wanted to be in sacramento for finals the lakers move the needele for nba it's rateing and everyhting else when the lakers in finals it's good for league they didnt want sacramento and cheated them out of game 6 nobody on sac will say anything because they dont want to look like pooor sports or whiners.

 
At Sunday, October 05, 2008 4:43:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Reggie:

Did you actually read the report and see the explanations of what happened on the various calls? Also, not only are your free throw numbers wrong but some of the free throws happened after the Kings committed intentional fouls to get the ball back. That game was poorly officiated but it was not "fixed." The NBA is a multi-billion dollar business and it makes no sense to jeopardize the whole league to "fix" a playoff game. The risk far outweighs any possible reward.

As I noted in the post, if the Kings had simply made a reasonable percentage of their game seven free throws then they would have won the series anyway, regardless of what happened in game six.

 
At Sunday, October 05, 2008 11:13:00 AM, Blogger Joel said...

Reggie:

If the NBA was in the business of fixing games and series, why have they allowed a ratings-killer like San Antonio to win so many championships?

 
At Sunday, October 05, 2008 3:36:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Joel:

That is an excellent point.

The thing that I have always said about NBA conspiracy theories is that I don't believe in a theory that "works" no matter what. For instance, when LeBron ends up in Cleveland the conspiracy theorists can say that the NBA wanted him to stay in his hometown (or close to it) to revive that team--but if he goes to NY then the conspiracy theorists can say that the NBA wants him to be in the biggest market. Basically, whatever happens there is a "conspiracy" that fits. The conspiracies are a lot of garbage. The reality is that NBA officiating is better than the officiating in any of the major sports. MLB umpiring is a joke with the strike zone that changes every day and a number of blown calls in big games. NFL officiating is not as good as NBA offficiating and there have been prominent NFL errors as well. I don't think that any of those sports are "fixed" but I do think that NBA officiating is better than the officiating in those leagues.

Part of the problem is that fans who complain about calls are either biased and/or simply don't even know the rules. I've been at many NBA games where I've heard fans complaining about calls that were obviously correct to anyone who knows the rules.

 
At Monday, October 06, 2008 1:37:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, Donaghy had been fixing spreads and betting on games for 3 1/2 years and had the FBI not stumbled upon him while doing a Gambino crime family tap he would still be douing it today. Th NBA caught no one so many referees could have been fixing games and betting on them.
David Stern's elaborate referee surveillance program he claimed to have in an interview with Bob Costas a few year back was a blatent lie.

Somehow almost every journalist has missed the most crooked playoff game ever officiated and I watched it close to the floor. The NBA Conference fials, game 7 in 1993 between Phoenix and Seattle. The Suns shot an incredible 64 free throws making 57 in a 123-111 win as 3 Seattle sarters fouled out (Kemp, Eddie Johnson and Nate McMillan, while Ricky Pierce had 5 fouls. No Phoenix plaer foulded out. Many of the fuls were of the phantom variety. With 3 veteran officials doing the game the officiating couldn't have been that lopsided unless the way the game was to have been officiated was predetermined. Well, I had to go to micrfilm to remind me who the referees were. Lo and behold, they were Dick (company man ) Bavetta, Ed (Soon to be Supervisor of Officials) Rush, and Mike (IRS tax evader and Felon) Mathis, who was one of 8 convicted felons of IRS tax evasion that Stern hired back.

The motive was clear. To put MVP Barkley's Suns against superman Michael Jordans Bulls to get tremendous ratings. Had John Paxton not hit the game winning 3 pointer in game 6 with 2 seconds remaining, the ratings for a game 7may have been the higest in NBA history. If you don't remember as it seems most journalists don't as few questions are raised about that disgusting officiated game, go look it up. It was a joke the world seems to have forgot about

Larry, Scottsdale, Az.

 
At Monday, October 06, 2008 4:41:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

First, it is very important to note that Donaghy was not charged with, let alone convicted of, "fixing" even one game. He provided tips to his associates about which way to bet on various games but there is no evidence that Donaghy purposely made bad calls. That explains why the grading/evaluation system did not detect any wrongdoing by Donaghy. The information that Donaghy provided pertained to player injuries, which officials were doing certain games (that info was not publicly available until just before tip-off at that time; the NBA has changed that rule now) and other info that the general public would not know. It sounds nefarious to say that just knowing which refs were doing certain games would influence how to bet but just like baseball umps have different strike zones some NBA refs have certain tendencies--to call more charging fouls or more blocking fouls, etc.--and depending on the style of a certain team that info could be relevant to a gambler. Long story short regarding Donaghy, there is no evidence that he "fixed" games, nor is there evidence that any other NBA refs "fixed" games.

As for the specific game you mentioned, I recall watching it (on TV) and I did not see anything that struck me as odd but that was 15 years ago so I can't honestly say that I remember each and every call that was made. Barkley and KJ shot most of the free throws and those two players were very difficult to guard. Playing at home in a seventh game, it is natural that they would go to the hoop and be very aggressive. Barkley finished with 44 points and 24 rebounds in one of the signature performances of his career.

You suggest that the NBA wanted a Jordan-Barkley showdown but Kemp and Payton were rising stars at the time and just three years later they in fact did face Jordan's Bulls in the Finals. The idea that the NBA would jeopardize its entire existence in order to put Barkley in the Finals instead of Kemp/Payton makes no sense. Barkley was a player who often said and did controversial things, so if the outcome of that series had been reversed and Seattle had advanced one could just as easily make the case that this was the outcome that the NBA wanted. Like I said, I don't believe "conspiracy" theories that work either way.

As I said, I don't remember anything untoward about that particular Phx-Seattle game, unlike the Lakers-Kings game in 2002; in the immediate aftermath of that 2002 contest, many people said that the officiating was subpar.

The easiest thing to do after one's favorite team loses is to say "We wuz robbed" but in the end this really does a disservice to the sport. To some degree, Phil Jackson and Pat Riley bear some responsibility for this, because in the 1990s they tried to gain an edge during their playoff battles by publicly complaining about the officiating. They were doing this as gamesmanship but too many fans really started taking this to heart and seriously believing it.

For what it's worth, Bavetta, Rush and Mathis were three of the highest regarded refs in the NBA at that time. Mathis in particular was known as a ref who was not swayed by a home crowd.

The worst call by far from that era was Hue Hollins' call against Scottie Pippen in game five of the 1994 East semifinals when the Jordan-less Bulls lost to the Knicks. That call may have cost the Bulls trip to the Finals, because that was the Bulls' best chance to win on the road in that series (it turned out that the home team won every game). I rooted for the Bulls at the time but I don't think the game was fixed; I think that it just was a terrible call, something that Darell Garretson (who also officiated that game and who served for a long time as the director of officials) publicly acknowledged a few months later.

 
At Monday, October 06, 2008 1:15:00 PM, Blogger JP said...

I agree with RJ Bell's take on the matter. He works for pregame.com.

"According to the report, the first 15 games of the 2006-07 refereed by Donaghy had big enough betting to move the point spread by at least 1 1/2 points. The teams in which the line moved in favor of beat the spread each time."

“To conclude Donaghy did not fix the games you have to believe that a person troubled enough to provide inside information to criminals was able to referee games in which he had a financial interest without any bias. Plus, you have to believe that information allowed big bettors to beat Las Vegas 15 straight times.”

http://sports.yahoo.com/nba/news?slug=txnbabetting&prov=st&type=lgns

 
At Monday, October 06, 2008 5:14:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

JP:

I agree that it is hard to believe that someone would offer betting tips as Donaghy did without changing the way that he officiated games but the Pedowitz Report does offer a possible explanation: if Donaghy purposely made bad calls then he would receive lower grades and possibly be fired, so it might not have been worth it to him to take that risk. I have yet to see anyone demonstrate that Donaghy was a bad official in terms of how he called games. Let me be clear: he obviously is a very bad official because he was engaging in illegal conduct with gamblers but that does not mean that he "fixed" games or purposely made bad calls. That is why the NBA has to more closely monitor the conduct of its referees away from the games, because that is the only way that they could have detected what Donaghy was doing.

The movement of the point spread does not prove that Donaghy fixed games; it just demonstrates that a lot of money was bet on one side in those games, thus shifting the spread.

As for the issue of the phone calls, I did not talk about that in the post but the Pedowitz Report discusses this in great detail and points out that it is not uncommon for referees to make short phone calls to each other while they are on the road waiting in airports and so forth. This is part of their lifestyle and part of how they unwind after games. The number of phone calls and the short duration of those calls did strike me as odd initially but the Report provides a credible explanation for this. This is a good example of something that I talk about a lot both here and at BEST (my other website): instead of jumping to conclusions off of scant information, reporters should dig deeper. I never made a big deal about the number of phone calls because I was not in a position to talk to the people involved and find out the whole story.

 
At Monday, October 06, 2008 7:37:00 PM, Blogger JP said...

I am not sure I buy that explanation. If you have listened to Hollins and Mathis in the last year or so, they have painted a pretty ugly picture regarding the recent state of NBA officiating. Questionable interactions with coaches, players, team executives, and don't forget the “cookie” story. I've heard Mathis rip the program, and state that a lot of the people that “review the officials” are not even qualified to do so. I believe he used a football trainer as an example.

I think there is plenty of reason to doubt the quality of NBA referees as a whole, and to be suspicious of the NBA's oversight program. That would make a good environment for Donaghy's actions to go under the radar.

 
At Monday, October 06, 2008 7:48:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

JP:

Hollins was not a particularly good ref in my opinion, so his thoughts do not interest me that much. As for Mathis, he was certainly a good ref but I think that he is also a disgruntled ex-employee at this point and that he has personal beefs with some of the people who he is criticizing.

Anyway, the main point is that neither the FBI nor the Pedowitz Report found any evidence of Donaghy intentionally making bad calls or fixing games. Donaghy graded out as an above average ref because he was in fact an above average ref, in terms of his on court performance. This is no different than someone in a management position in a corporation who develops a gambling problem and provides inside information to others to settle his gambling debts while still performing his job duties to the best of his ability. Until proven otherwise, that is basically what Donaghy was doing.

I have either forgotten the "cookie" story or did not refer to it as such, so please refresh my memory.

 
At Monday, October 06, 2008 10:11:00 PM, Blogger JP said...

David,

Yes, Hollins was not a good official, but a lot of the stuff he said is backed by multiple sources. Some of what he has said is out there for everybody to see. A referee and a player hugging or joking around, for example.

The NBA rating Donaghy as above average means very little.

How would the Pedowitz Report or the FBI be able to confidently state evidence that Donaghy fixed games? For one, that would require an extensive understanding of the NBA game and its rules. Two, NBA referees blow calls all the time. Last by not least, a lot of the whistles are “judgment calls” or open to different interpretation. One referee can look back on two plays and say “block” and “minimal contact” while another says “charge” and “foul.” So that would be difficult for a variety of reasons.

The bottom line is that someone can look at those 14 games he bet on (that he also officiated) in 06/07 and tally up quite a list of flat-out incorrect calls, and a slew of possibly incorrect calls. Then you add that to the fact that he had a desirable outcome in his head and I think it's pretty clear. The evidence is there, you just have to look at the games and know the rules.


The story is that Bavetta was bringing cookies to a certain NBA coach before games.

 
At Monday, October 06, 2008 10:49:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

JP:

I agree that the NBA needs to better regulate the interactions between referees and team personnel, if for no other reason than to remove the perception that there may be some impropriety taking place.

I am not saying that the system that was in place--changes have already been made--was perfect; I think that it was a good system that can be improved and the NBA is taking steps to improve it.

As you mention, a lot of calls are judgment calls. That is just the nature of the game. Still, there is no evidence of a pattern of bad calls indicating that Donaghy or anyone else fixed games. I agree that if you look at tapes of Donaghy's games (or anyone else's) that you will find missed calls--but will you find a pattern of missed calls favoring a particular team? The FBI and the NBA both looked into this and did not find such a pattern. Whether or not you trust the NBA and/or the Pedowitz Report, the FBI would certainly have no reason or inclination to hide such misconduct by Donaghy.

Is it possible that Donaghy fixed games anyway, even though it has not been proven? Of course it is, but it would be reckless to say that he fixed games without being able to prove it.

I did not know that particular Bavetta story but everyone knows that he is very outgoing. I suspect that this aspect of his personality is going to not be on display quite so much going forward.

In the "old" days, players, coaches and referees all took the same flights and hung out in the same places after games. That was a different time, of course, and now everything has to be conducted on a more professional and detached basis.

 
At Tuesday, October 07, 2008 6:56:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Larry:

NBA TV just rebroadcast the Phx-Sea game seven from 1993. The rebroadcast is edited down to fit a two hour format and the broadcast started a bit late due to a "Real Training Camp" segment but they still showed the bulk of the game. I have to say that upon watching the game I have concluded that the general tenor of your comment is completely off base.

It is important to understand that you cannot determine bias merely by looking at how many fouls are called on each team; it should be obvious that if one team commits more fouls then that team should be whistled for more fouls. Most of the Seattle fouls were such obvious hacks that I have no idea how you could get the idea that the refs were biased in this game. In fact, the ironic thing is that during a lot of the first half the Phoenix crowd was booing because they felt that the refs were favoring the Sonics! At one point in the second quarter, the Suns had been whistled for five fouls while the Sonics had not been whistled for any (which is not to suggest that those calls were wrong but merely to point out that this goes against your suggestion that the refs were "fixing" the game for Phx). The worst call that I saw in the first half was when KJ stripped the ball and knocked it off of a Seattle player but the refs gave the ball back to Seattle. Dick Enberg and Steve Jones noted that this was a bad call.

As for specific calls against some of the Sonics you mentioned by name, here is what I saw (some fouls were not shown, probably due to the broadcast being edited down): Pierce's first, second and third fouls were obvious hacks, while his fifth foul was when he shoved Barkley out of bounds. Eddie Johnson picked up his first foul hacking the bigger Tom Chambers in a postup situation and Steve Jones noted that this was a tough defensive matchup for Johnson. Johnson was later whistled for a reach in that Jones called a "touch foul." Johnson committed an obvious blocking foul on an Ainge drive and he committed a foul that he disagreed with but was not shown during the broadcast. It must be mentioned that Barkley was also called for at least one "touch foul" during the game.

The four Kemp fouls that were shown were obvious fouls. Jones criticized Kemp's judgment and also criticized Seattle Coach George Karl for keeping Kemp on Barkley after Kemp got into foul trouble.

McMillan was hacking people right and left.

Near the end of the game, after the foul that Johnson disagree with that was not shown during the rebroadcast, Enberg made a brief comment that part of the home court advantage consists in how fouls are called but that is an odd thing to say considering that there were at least as many borderline calls against Phoenix (the KJ swipe that should have been Phx's ball, the touch foul on Barkley) as there were against Seattle (the two possibly borderline calls against Johnson). During the course of the telecast, neither Enberg nor Jones criticized specific calls other than the KJ play and the Johnson "touch foul." On the other hand, Jones rightly criticized Seattle for being impatient, playing poor defense and continuing to commit obvious fouls after they were already in the penalty.

I see absolutely no reason whatsoever to say that this game was fixed or even to say that it was poorly officiated.

 

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