Monday, April 21, 2014

Are Some NBA Games Fixed?

Are some NBA games fixed?

According to several veteran bookies tuned into the underworld, a few games definitely are. One estimated that about a dozen games a season are rigged.

The issue arose as a result of Saturday's Clippers-Warriors playoff game, which Golden State, an eight-point, road underdog, surprisingly won, 109-105. Clearly the Warriors got a big boost from the refs, who handcuffed Clippers' star Blake Griffin early with questionable fouls--the kind rarely called on a superstar in a critical game. Griffin played only 19 minutes and was walking on eggshells during most of them, before fouling out with 48.3 seconds left. During that final minute, when he could have made a difference, he was on the bench. Through most of the game, without Griffin to worry about, the Warriors could focus more on the Clippers shooters, rendering them ineffective.

The refs, in the name of  keeping the game from turning into a brawl, were constantly calling "invisible" fouls. To make it look like they were treating both teams equally, they hampered the Warriors' best defensive player Andre Iguoadala with fouls, eventually fouling him out. But the loss of Griffin hurt the Clippers much, much more that losing Iguoadala bothered the Warriors. If Griffin plays most of the game, the Clippers almost certainly win.

Was it a case of rigging or just horrible officiating?  In the opinion of several bookies, the game could easily have been rigged, though none knew for sure. One, though, disagreed, arguing that fixed games are handled much more smoothly, with the refs playing a less obvious role.

What usually happens in fixed NBA games, said one bookie, is subtle point-shaving, with the refs making calls that keep a big favorite from covering the spread. Point shaving, he added, generally happens in games nobody cares about, between one good team and a bad team. Fixing, he said, is tougher in a big national TV game with so many people watching.

NBA officials are constantly fretting about rigging, a stance many claim is hypocritical, considering some observers swear three major playoff games were fixed by the league: the first is game 7 of the 2000 Lakers-Trail Blazers Western Conference Finals; the second is game 6 of the 2002  Lakers-Kings Western Conference Finals; the third is the game 5 of the 2006 Miami-Dallas Finals. The NBA, naturally, claims innocence in all three cases.

Can point-shaving--instances involving the underworld--be stopped? It's doubtful. One bookie argued the problem is the crooked refs are way ahead of the investigators, much like, he added, juiced-up athletes are one step ahead of investigators, with the latest juice-masking drugs.

All the bookies consulted, though, said there will be no more questionable games in this season's playoffs. The Warriors-Clippers game, they said, heightened awareness of rigging. It's tougher to pull it off cleanly when everyone is watching out for it.