Mark Jackson and George Karl have made themselves the story (Getty Images)
It’s an NBA certainty that a playoff series will become more and more physical the longer they go. Familiarity breeds contempt, and adjustments and changing assignments have a way of forcing both sides into chippy play as teams meet each other for the fifth or sixth time in a just over a week and a half. Par for the course with Indiana and Atlanta, or Boston and New York, and especially the Los Angeles Clippers and Memphis Grizzlies – two teams that have met 14 times over the last 15 months.
Strangely, of the eight first round playoffs series, the Golden State Warriors and Denver Nuggets have outpaced the rest of the NBA when it comes to both potentially dirty play, and the endless talk about cheap shots both during (Warriors coach Mark Jackson brought it up during a mid-game TNT interview) and after the game (Nuggets coach George Karl called Warriors forward Festus Ezeli a name that I won’t even use on Twitter, much less this website).
This is the top story heading into Thursday night’s Game 6. And, as a public service to the greater NBA fandom, I have to humbly offer this suggestion to referees Danny Crawford, Marc Davis, and Michael Smith:
Please, please, let these guys play.
Both teams will attempt to toss out some cheap shots on Thursday. The Warriors and Nuggets may give off that multicolored ABA ball-vibe as they dash up and down the court and fire up three-pointer after three-pointer, but both teams are chock full of well-meaning dudes that would love nothing more than to take a technical for the coach, or take a hard foul for the team. Both rosters feature several frontcourt players that don’t mind sticking their chin out, and it is important for the referees to stop the slapfest before it gets out of hand.
Technicals are different from personal fouls, though. And it would be a terrible shame if what could be the final game in perhaps the first round’s most exciting series were adversely affected by endless whistles, foul trouble, and far too many free throws. It’s one thing if Faried lays wood or Bogut hip-checks a Nugget into the photographer’s row. It’s another if Andre Iguodala is whistled for several iffy hand check calls, or Klay Thompson has to sit just because Andre Miller flailed his arms while attempting to secure post-up position.
A long playoff series has a way of righting itself, and though each of the refs that will work in Oakland tonight are more than capable of presiding over a great contest, the NBA cannot afford to have what could be a classic altered by an edict from on high.
It’s very much true that an intentional elbow or shove could very well hurt a Warrior or Nugget and change the course of this series, and the playoffs. A tight whistle for actual basketball plays, though, won’t solve anything. Those just disrupt rhythm, slow the game down, and add an extra influence that is appreciated by absolutely no one – especially if the whistles are equal on both sides.
Yes, Game 6 will be physical. But it will “Warriors and Nuggets”-level physical. There’s still a multicolored ball floating around the airspace, here.
Let that airspace be broken in the form of a three-pointer, refs. Not from a free throw.
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