The Call That Wasn't
Brent Barry’s days in the NBA are numbered, as they are for all players, of course. But Barry is 36 years old and his career will be over soon — maybe next week, maybe next year. Years from now, if anyone remembers last night’s game, it will not be for Barry’s heroic efforts on offense, scoring a career playoff high 23 points, but instead for Derek Fisher’s foul on Barry that was not called by Joey Crawford.
Derek Fisher already has a place in Spurs lore as the Lakers villain who made an improbable shot in an improbable time span in 2005. Joey Crawford is the embodiment of fans antipathy towards the Spurs, a veteran referee who was suspended for the remainder of the regular season and playoffs last year after making a bogus call against the greatest power forward who has ever played the game. Crawford was back to his old anti-Spurs ways in the Spurs-Hornets series this season, even going so far as to poke Gregg Popovich’s chest twice to make a point during a heated exchange. Last night, Crawford was the referee who should have made the call, but did not.
Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant and Gregg Popovich all agreed that Fisher didn’t foul Brent Barry. They’re also all wrong. Fisher landed on Barry’s shoulder, and that was revealing for more than one reason.
Joey Crawford naturally played a role in this story, too. When Fisher went up and Barry stayed down, the one ref staring directly at the play was the same ref who didn’t work last year’s playoffs because he ejected Tim Duncan for laughing. This time Crawford stayed silent, and this time the Spurs weren’t laughing. At least one Spur privately saw this as yet another chapter in the NBA’s Crawford Conspiracy.
Ludden argues that the Spurs didn’t deserve to win last night’s game, but he’s wrong about that. Ludden also argues that the coaches and players who believe that Barry wasn’t fouled by Fisher, or that Crawford was right for not making the call, are mistaken. He’s right on that point.
“If I was the official,” Popovich said, “I wouldn’t have called that a foul.”
Said Barry: “That shouldn’t be called in the Western Conference finals.”
Barry’s wrong. Crawford should have called it.
Fans agree. Check out the poll on Yahoo. With over 23,000 votes cast so far, 63% believe that Derek Fisher fouled Brent Barry. The only question is whether it was on the floor (45%) or with continuation (18%).
The NBA settled that question today by acknowledging its mistake. The foul should have been called on the floor.
The league office on Wednesday reviewed the final play of the San Antonio Spurs’ 93-91 home loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals and acknowledged that a two-shot foul should have been called on Derek Fisher for impeding Brent Barry.
Can you remember the last time that the league actually admitted an officiating mistake, especially a game-changer like this one? I can’t.
It’s unfortunate that Brent Barry’s performance last night came in the Spurs first playoff loss at home since May 14, 2007. You may recall, that game was memorable, too, but less for the outcome than for a foul.
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