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2012 NBA Playoffs Recap, Day 32

Rajon Rondo was the best player on the floor Wednesday night but even he didn’t have the biggest impact on the game. No, that title belonged to the officials, for all the wrong reasons. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Heat, Referees top Celtics in Game 2
That’s right. Don’t even question it. The NBA officiating crew working Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals had just as much to do with the Heat winning as LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. Miami took 47 trips to the charity stripe while the Celtics took 29. Boston accumulated 33 personal fouls and had three players foul out to Miami’s 18 and zero, respectively. Really? This kind of favoritism still happens in the post-Michael Jordan NBA? Embarrassing.

The officials on Wednesday night decided to give the Heat, and especially James, all the help they could. LeBron went to the line (24 attempts) nearly as much as the entire Boston roster (29). The technical foul called midway through the 3rd quarter on Kevin Garnett was a complete joke. At what point should the NBA start putting its players in dresses and high heels instead of baller shorts and high tops? It’s the playoffs. Let the boys play. Garnett simply pushed a guy out of his face. He didn’t pursue a confrontation or bark into James Jones’ grille.

What’s worse, in the crucial moments of a critical game, the Officials ignored a blatant foul on one end when Rajon Rondo was raked across the face and instead rewarded Wade with an “and one” opportunity a few possessions later even though Wade clearly moved Kevin Garnett out of the way with an obvious kick to the knee. No other professional sport, INCLUDING baseball, is consistently tarnished by the ineptitude of its officiating. I would implore commissioner David Stern to take action, but as the NBA’s Draft Lottery proved earlier on Wednesday evening, Stern doesn’t shy away from fixing outcomes to favor the league. The NBA needs the Heat in the playoffs, so Stern demanding a better performance from his officials when their current conduct favors Stern’s media darlings is as likely as Rondo dropping 44 points again. Sadly, this is the reality of the NBA. Stars being favored by officials is an ugly byproduct of the Jordan era that was handed down to Kobe Bryant and now apparently to LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.

And breathe. I almost feel better.

In addition to the horrendous officiating, the Celtics were also to blame for losing Game 2. It seemed that whenever the Celtics got a key stop they failed to corral the rebound. Miami continually got huge offensive boards and used them to haunt the Celtics all night long. The Heat’s offensive rebounds ignited rallies, gave the Heat multiple opportunities to climb back in the game late in the 4th quarter, and really scuttled the Celtics chances in overtime. Offensive rebounds are a part of the game. The ball bounces funny sometimes. It happens. However, the Celtics offensive rebounding woes can also be attributed to a lack of hustle or focus or both. Team’s trying to overcome their own injuries and a better opponent can afford neither.

It’s hard to imagine the pain and disappointment of losing Game 2 won’t linger. I’d be shocked if the Celtics bounce back to take Games 3 and 4. Regardless, Rondo was superb in Game 2. It was the gutsiest playoff performance I can remember since Allen Iverson took down the mighty Lakers on his own in Game 1 of the 2001 NBA Finals. Rondo played every minute. He was better than Wade and LeBron. He completely carried the Celtics. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t enough. Had Ray Allen’s open three fallen and given Boston an eight point lead with under three minutes to go we would probably be talking about a tied series right now. But we’re not.

Instead, we get to focus on the horrific officiating and LeBron’s curious decision to settle for a fadeaway 20 footer even though A. a player half his size was guarding him. B. the Celtics proved over and over again they couldn’t protect the rim. And C. the officials would have undoubtedly bailed out LeBron after any contact. In related news, LeBron is still the least clutch superstar in the league.

Back to the Celtics not protecting the rim. Do they not watch the Spurs? The Spurs are similar to the Celtics in that they lack size and athleticism to protect the rim and block shots. To compensate, the Spurs cut off driving lanes and collapse into the lane to force opponents to settle for jumpers instead of easy layups. The Celtics should absolutely do the same and force the Heat to beat them by hitting jump shots. I mean, nothing could be much worse than the Celtics frantically running into the lane as Wade and LeBron are either finishing at the rim, drawing a blocking call, or doing both simultaneously.

There’s still hope for Boston. A win is all they need to get their mojo going. More focus and effort in rebounding, livelier legs in the 2nd half  (a long shot), and more movement offensively, especially late in the 4th quarter, should push the Celtics past the Heat. But only for one game. Any hope of Boston winning the series depends on the herculean efforts of Rajon Rondo.

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