Following game one of the NBA finals, it’s unfortunate fans can’t celebrate my masterful fifty-one points to lead the Cleveland Cavaliers to an upset over the formidable Golden State Warriors. Instead, we’re talking about obtuse referees who turned a great game into a farce. Late in the fourth quarter, I cleanly stripped the ball from the delicate hands of Kevin Durant. We led by one and should have had possession but the men in striped shirts called a foul. Durant made the first gift and missed the second which young Kevon Looney tipped in. That’s three points the Warriors shouldn’t have had. Then the refs, evidently jealous of my offensive barrage, swallowed their whistles when Looney hacked me as I surged inside. That cost us another point or two.
The referees saved their most devious moment until thirty-six seconds remained when we led by two and Kevin Durant tried to pancake me, the man-who-gets-few-calls. Initially, the refs ruled that Durant had charged. Then, surprisingly, they decided they had to make sure I wasn’t in the restricted area, a small semi-circle under the basket. Almost all coherent observers could see I stood well outside the line. Nevertheless, the refs reviewed the play, positioning themselves screen center on TVs around the world. I was indeed outside the restricted area, but since the officials had empowered themselves to begin the review, they automatically gave themselves the relatively new, and absurd, option to also review, and reverse, the original call. Durant didn’t charge, they concluded, I blocked him. And he gratefully sank two free throws to tie the game at a hundred four.
No one can fault the referees for the next screw up. Under pressure I drove left and powered the ball in to put the Cavs ahead by two before sleek Steph Curry countered with a layup, was fouled hard, and made his free throw to give the Warriors a one-point lead. Back on the Cavs’ offensive end, time evaporating, I rifled a pass George Hill couldn’t reach because he was held. Hill made the first free throw to even the score at a hundred seven. Four seconds remained. Hill shot the second free throw too hard, it hit the back rim, and caromed over the hand of Kevin Durant, who hadn’t boxed out JR Smith. Shoot it JR. Or call time out. Or throw the ball to a teammate. What the hell are you doing, dribbling toward the three-point line and killing the clock? Feeling as if I were undergoing unanesthetized surgery, I privately in public rebuked my teammate, who clearly thought, despite subsequent denials, that his team had the lead.
The final indignity occurred early in overtime when referees continued to protect Kevin Durant’s tender hands, whistling George Hill for a foul after he neatly swiped the ball. Rather than having a chance to lead, the Cavs watched Durant hit two free throws, and the Warrior racehorses finally unleashed and won by ten. But the victory had earlier been earned by the Cleveland Cavaliers. Me and my guys needed to claim this winnable game against a more talented team. A victory would have provided at least a chance in the series. That chance now seems a dream.