We're one game into the first-round matchup between the Toronto Raptors and the Brooklyn Nets and already there's a theory floating around the old Internet stating that the NBA and the Game 1 officiating crew wanted the Brooklyn Nets to win on Saturday because they were angling for a Nets-Heat series in Round Two.
If it could afford to be honest, the league would be out in public planting pins in a Raptors voodoo doll. A second-round matchup between Brooklyn and Miami is the most lucrative possible series before the final. Outside of Florida, a Toronto-Miami tilt will draw American viewers like Poker After Dark.
This is the grey moment when you begin to consider the possibility of conspiracies.
After the fourth quarter of Game 1, it certainly looked like the refs had made their choice. The Nets drew four shooting fouls in that frame and made eight free throws – the margin of victory. The Raptors drew none.
Actually, this is the black and white moment where you tip your cap to the Nets on taking Game 1 and you hope that your team is ready and focused on getting back on track in Game 2. That's what you spend your time doing, as opposed to wonderin' and considerin' the alternative.
If I may, I often get criticized around these parts for not being a "Nets homer," so I'll speak to this theory with my Nets-neutral editorial cap on and say this: At the 2:22-mark in the fourth quarter the Raptors let Paul Pierce get an open lane to the basket for quite possibly the easiest bucket he's scored this year; step up and make a stop. At the 1:33-mark in the fourth, Pierce came off a screen at the top of the key, Patrick Patterson was turned around and Jonas Valanciunas, on help, got lost for a brief second, allowing Pierce to hit an open jumper; step up and make a stop.
I could go on and count, instead of all the "superstar calls," all of the defensive breakdowns that more so than anything led to the Nets beating the Raptors in Game 1, but, you get my point. I mean, to further, the refs didn't shoot 3-of-13 from the floor in this game, DeMar DeRozan did.
You're the Atlantic Division champs, Toronto, off a 48-win season, and to complain about lack of respect, as even Patrick Patterson did, is a bit much. It goes: "Act like you've been there before."
The best bit of advice comes from inside the Raptors own locker room, where Greivis Vasquez put it perfectly, saying, "This is the playoffs. We’re playing against vets. They’ve been in this league. They earned that respect. We can’t use the referees as an excuse."
The refs are an easy excuse. Much like the media is, David Stern was and Adam Silver will be. It's too easy.
What's more difficult is actually going out and making late-game stops, winning a playoff game against a veteran team that has "been here before" -- so many times, in fact, that they're often referred to as dinosaurs; imagine that! Blaming the refs is not a good look, especially when you took just two fewer free throws than your opponent.
- NBA’s star-driven realities will put an end to Raptors’ season - Cathl Kelly - The Globe and Mail