Thursday, June 11, 2015

How NBA Refs Have Been Fixing Finals






The NBA Finals, featuring the Cleveland Cavaliers against the Golden State Warriors, are surprising close, and surprisingly entertaining. You can thank the refs for that.

Without their calls--or non-calls-- the Warriors, by far the most talented team, would have cruised to a four-game sweep  But, with help from the refs, all three games have been competitive, with the first two going into overtime. The underdog Cavaliers, even without two of their three best players, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving, are leading the Warriors 2-1. That's amazing since nearly all experts picked Golden Sate to romp in four or, at the most, five games.

Fans are loving it. So is the ABC TV network. These Finals have the biggest ratings in years. At first the Finals looked to be a low-rated, mismatched loser, with most fans outside the San Francisco Bay Area not caring to see Golden State be Goliath. But, with the undermanned Cavs playing David, they are whipping up on the Warriors.

How is this possible? It's very simple. The refs have set a rugged tone, beginning with the first game, that overwhelmingly favors Cleveland.  While an excellent defensive team. the Warriors are basically an offensive juggernaut that relies on the jump-shooting skills of guards Stef Curry and Klay Thomspon. They play a fast-paced style that uses bullet-passing to get their shooters open shots. But that's not what's happening in this series.

With the aid of the refs, the Cavs, a thuggish half-court team, are bullying the Warriors, beating up on them at every turn. The Warriors are best at a high-scoring, wide-open, fast-paced style. But these games are low-scoring, slow-paced, wrestling matches. They're much like those Eastern Conferences playoffs back in the day, with teams like the Knicks, Bulls, Pistons and Celtics locked in bruising defensive battles, with scores in 80s..

What the refs are doing now is not calling penalties on the Cavs when they are roughing up the Warriors. There is so much Cavalier hacking and clobbering that goes on with the refs looking the other way. The refs are subtly encouraging this pro-Cavs style of play.

There was one play in the third game where Cleveland's LeBron James barreled into slender Curry from behind, bowling him over, without a whistle on James. It was shocking. Meanwhile the refs are letting James be in freight-train mode, without penalty. On many of his many drives to the basket, where he'll plow into two or three Warriors, he could easily be called for charging. But he almost always gets by with no penalty.

James' constant pounding and extra-rough tactics of other Cavs take their toll on the Warrior players, who don't have the energy to make their offense run more smoothly. This tiring style of play is a boost to the Cavs. The result is a bunch of ugly games, with the sleek, race-horse Warriors sinking into the sludge with the rhino-like Cavs.

How is it all going to play out? It's possible that the Warriors may get down and dirty and beat the Cavs at their own game. Or maybe this wrestling-style of play is so wearying that the Cavs, who aren't very deep, may wear down in the last few games.

It may not be pretty but the games will probably be close, which will attract fans. This series will probably go six or seven, unless the Cavs shock the world and win in five, which is unlikely. Even if it ends in five it's already been a much more entertaining series than expected.

Whatever happens you can bet the refs--the puppeteers pulling the strings with ABC in mind--will be guiding the action in a direction favorable to ABC. Naturally the network, as usual, will deny any hanky-panky.

But knowledgeable folks in the gambling and gangster underworld will tell you that the network, in this case, is full of crap.