Officials Blow Whistles; Also, NBA Event Happens; Wizards and Hawks Participated | Wizards Blog Truth About

Officials Blow Whistles; Also, NBA Event Happens; Wizards and Hawks Participated

Updated: April 21, 2017

Paul Millsap claims he didn’t hear them, but everyone else heard them. The chorus of “Ref(s) you suck” echoed throughout the Verizon Center Wednesday night almost as frequently as the mind-numbing, played-out “De-Fense” requested of fans every 24 seconds. On several occasions, the antagonistic chants rang out louder than the celebratory cheers greeting home-team success.

Millsap heard the crowd, make no mistake. Patrons of The Greene Turtle probably heard the crowd, or at least felt the echoes reverberate throughout F St. and the surrounding region. Moments before the Wizards put the finishing touches on a Game 2 victory over the visiting Atlanta Hawks, yet another questionable call by the officiating crew of Marc Davis, Sean Corbin, and David Guthrie sent the crowd into a frenzy so violent the tables at bloggers row began to shake.

The issue was two-fold: Sure, the officiating was egregious, so bad that numerous national outlets felt compelled to highlight the disaster in the aftermath, but the Wizards and Hawks are both at least partly to blame for the referees feeling compelled to take control.

Millsap’s incessant whining is already the most annoying thing about the 2017 NBA Playoffs, and he might be the first player to ever publicly complain about overly physical play in the league’s least physical era . . . after a game in which his team shot twenty-two more free throws than the opponent.

Take a moment to stew on that. The Hawks shot 39 free throws to the Wizards’ 17 in Game 1. The free trips to the line were the only thing going their way, and that led to 32 of Atlanta’s 107 points. And after the game, (arguably) Atlanta’s best player takes the podium to complain about how physical Washington was? Not only is that sure to draw the ridicule of fans and critics across the league, but it’s simply bad strategy. Fouls lead to free throws, which lead to both points and opponents being forced from the game.

I had no problem whatsoever with Markieff Morris being proud of his team’s physicality in the first game, or his vow to continue it for the remainder of the series (1). That said, those comments brought the inevitable reality of Game 2, which was a trio of referees who couldn’t keep their whistles out of their mouths.

It was a back-and-forth game, not only between the Wizards and the Hawks, but between the baskets and the fouls. This is how the tally looked after each period:

  • First quarter: 16 fouls, 16 field goals
  • Second quarter: 29 fouls, 32 field goals
  • Third quarter: 43 fouls, 51 field goals
  • Fourth quarter: 55 fouls, 71 field goals

It marked just the fourth time in franchise history that Washington committed at least 29 fouls in a playoff game and won. And to be clear, most of the fouls were justified. Most of them. But with 29 fouls whistled, I’d estimate about three or four would qualify as awful and at least as many would qualify as borderline.

For example, this was a foul …

… while this was a no-call.

The Wizards were justifiably upset, most would agree. John Wall, somehow, did not get a technical foul in the affair, and it’s nothing short of remarkable that, in such a heated game, Scott Brooks was the only individual to be T’d up. Wall got in the faces of the officials on several occasions, but luckily for him, and the Wizards (2), Good Guy Jason Smith was there to act as a barrier.

As for the physicality of the game, well, there were some opinions on the Atlanta side.

Here’s what Millsap had to say:

On the physicality of the game: “I liked it.”
On the officiating: “I feel like they called the game as it was. There were fouls and I think they called it on both sides. It was a pretty balanced game. Very physical game.”

Here’s Hawks forward Taurean Prince:

On the officiating: “You’re going to have up and downs in the game so I mean you just got to take that for what it is. You have no control over what a ref calls. You can argue it all you want but at the end of the day, call’s going to stand.”

Here’s Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer:

On the officiating: “I think the officials did a good job tonight. I thought they were good in Game 1. It’s the playoffs, it’s physical. I think both teams are attacking the basket, both teams are going to the basket a lot. Referees are put in situations, it feels like we are doing everything we can to show our hands and be vertical and keep them off the free-throw line. They are probably saying the same things. I think 38 free throws [for us] and 33 for them, that is a lot for a game. It disrupts the flow a little bit. It’s a little bit of playoff basketball, it’s a little bit of two teams playing aggressive on both ends. I do not know if it affected the flow, I thought at times the game was moving and things were happening. The fouls were usually fouls of aggression. You were usually awarded for your aggressiveness.” (3)

For his part, Wall didn’t notice a difference in the physicality between the two games—”pretty even to me, not a big adjustment in my opinion—adding: “The refs are trying to do the best they can. They’re not going to get every call right. At times it’s going to feel like it’s not going our way, but Coach preached to us all season long don’t worry about it, just keep playing, let me worry about the refs.”

Brooks did, in fact, worry about the refs. He was issued the technical foul and at times throughout the game was visibly frustrated with the officiating crew, throwing his hands up and expressing physical exasperation and confusion as to the whistle-blowing habits of the men in stripes. He eventually cracked a postgame joke about not wanting to say another thing that would incur an additional fine.

The Wizards have been called for 54 fouls over the two games, compared to 48 for the Hawks. That’s a negligible disparity. But the Hawks have shot 77 free throws to the Wizards’ 50, and that’s after a series of fourth-quarter make-up calls in Washington’s favor.

Atlanta has been the ultimate beneficiary, but it’s been hard to watch these games. Thankfully, the Verizon Center crowd was superb on Wednesday, and it damn near brought a tear to my eye watching a sellout crowd exult and despair with every ebb and flow of the game. But the excitement doesn’t translate to a television audience, and even the in-house jubilance is in spite of the officiating, certainly not because of it.

The officials are doing too much to involve themselves. The Wizards are doing too much complaining when they don’t get calls. The Hawks are doing too much complaining after games. And writers, bloggers, analysts, and everybody else is spending too much talking about the referees, and talking about the complaining about the referees, and talking about the game not being good.

Game 2 took 2 hours and 45 minutes, officially, to play out. I’ll never complain about a basketball game taking a long time, because basketball is great. But basketball becomes considerably less great when it isn’t allowed to exist in a natural state.

We’re at 102 personal fouls through eight quarters of basketball. That’s more than one foul per minute so far this series. Please make it stop.

More Stuff.

  1. But please come up with something better than “double MMA.”
  2. And also the refs, because if they had given John Wall a technical foul, the Verizon Center might very well have rioted.
  3. John Wall and Bradley Beal would surely disagree with this final statement. They frequently drove to the basket and endured whistle-free contact.
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Bryan Frantz
Reporter / Writer at TAI
Bryan is a D.C. native with a degree in something or other from UNC. He has important, interesting hobbies, but mostly he just weeps over D.C. sports teams. You can find him on the Metro, inevitably complaining about Red Line delays.