NBA officials, like in many other sports leagues, are constantly under scrutiny by fans and the media. Officiating nowadays seems to be getting worse as the league makes changes to rules and interpretations of the rules.
On March 29, it seemed as if the relationship between players and officiating would reach a new low. In the Golden State Warriors’ loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves, there were several questionable calls late in the final seconds of overtime.
The first occurred when Warriors forward Kevin Durant was fouled shooting a three-pointer by Timberwolves forward Keita Bates-Diop with 4.4 seconds left in overtime.
The made shot would have tied the game at 130, with the foul call sending Durant to the free throw line to give the Warriors the lead. Instead, official Marat Kogut ruled that Durant was fouled before he shot the ball, and since the Warriors were yet to be in the bonus, the ball would be taken out on the sideline.
Despite this, Warriors guard Stephen Curry hit a corner three-pointer to tie the game anyway, but Golden State was now fighting to send the game into double overtime instead of making one last stop to win the game after blowing a large halftime lead. Following the play, the Warriors mocked Kogut as they walked back to the bench during a timeout.
The next controversial play happened on the Timberwolves’ ensuing inbound play. With Minnesota forward Anthony Tolliver trying to inbound the ball to center Karl-Anthony Towns, Durant was called for a foul by official Leon Wood with 0.5 seconds left. Towns made the first free throw, and intentionally missed the second to let time expire and Minnesota escaped with a 131-130 comeback victory.
The NBA soon came out with its last two minute report stating that the officials made the correct calls (as outrageous as that seems) and fined three Warriors players for a combined $75,000 for comments about officiating made after the game and on social media.
Personally, while I agree with the call on Durant in the final second, it’s typically not a foul that gets called in the final frantic seconds of a game. There’s been inconsistency with making that call at that point in the game when they don’t call it at that same point in other games.
Also, I disagree with the NBA’s official ruling on non-shooting call on the Durant three-pointer. That changed how the Warriors approached the next play and it cost them.
This inconsistency and the referees ego has been deciding the outcome of games for many years, yet the NBA does almost nothing about it. Although they may be disciplining referees behind the scenes, they typically don’t make it public.
If the NBA wants to maintain the integrity of the game and keep the trust of its players and fans, they have to publicly hold their officials accountable the same way they publicly fine and suspend players. Doing so makes it known that they aren’t letting officials let their emotions get the best of them in the plain view of players and fans. It also lets the officials know they are responsible for their actions on the court.
If we do not want another Tim Donaghy-like game-fixing scandal, the NBA must take action.