We fully expect the Western Conference finals to go six or seven games, with each of them probably pretty close. The Eastern Conference finals? It won't go on for as long, but the games will be competitive and tough. And we fully expect the NBA's remaining referee crews to get their act together, with just a few weeks left in the regular season, and stop whistling the sort of needless and ill-timed technical foul calls that we saw Monday night in Boston's Game 1 loss to the Miami Heat.
Those calls had absolutely nothing to do with the outcome of the game, as Miami's stifling second-half defense and the brilliance of the team's two superstars put that contest out of reach, but that reality doesn't take away from a litany of objectionable technical calls from referees that absolutely needed to take a minute to recite the alphabet in their head before deciding whether or not to blow the whistle. Like when Ed Malloy tossed a terrible T at Celtics coach Doc Rivers for saying "come on, Ed" to the obviously angsty decide-er-er. Here's Doc, to WEEI:
"I know mine wasn't [deserved]," Rivers said. "I don't know how long I've been in the league, but that has to rank as the worst I've ever had. I would have liked to have earned it."
We're going to make this as brief as possible, so as not to sway from the point.
This is the last week of May. Players that play NBA basketball in the last week of May are a different breed. They are professional. They compete. They want badly to win, and they've likely been around the pro game long enough (even the performers in their early 20s) that these players do not need the schoolmarm treatment.
Yes, the Heat won by 14 in a game where the points collected from those technical fouls did not matter. But we'll decide what does and does not matter once that final buzzer sounds. Until then, in contests played by grown men, you can hold off on the delay-of-game calls. You can let Ray Allen, pro since before Sen. Robert Dole was nominated by the Republican Party as its candidate for the 1996 presidential election, react to a call regardless of whether or not you blew it (though you did blow it).
You can understand that it is late May, and only a special breed of player (plus Ryan Hollins) works until late May. Clearly, Game 1 was a poor example of how the referees usually conduct themselves. Clearly, things will improve. And, clearly, this has to stand out as a low point.
With that in place, allowing these adults to react with passion that rivals the enormity of their task does not mean that the inmates will start running the asylum. There will not be rampant looting and copulation in the high street if Ray Allen is allowed to wave his arms or if Kevin Garnett annoys an opponent or Doc Rivers pleads with an official in the heat of what is probably his Last Great Chance with a Great Team that, once again, is Playing In Late May. Tall letters, for tall times.
Grow tall, referees. It's a thankless task, we know, so we'll thank you in advance for letting these things go.