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The Call That Wasn't

By Daniel Strickland on May 29, 2008.

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.

Johhny Ludden writes:

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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  1. Anonymous May 29, 2008

    You’re right on both counts. It pisses me off that much of the narrative on the game, even some of the pro-Spurs sites, has been that the Spurs “didn’t deserve to win.” What crap! Why? Because they didn’t play particularly well most of the night and the Lakers did? So then why the hell weren’t the Lakers up by double digits so that the foul wouldn’t have meant anything anyway. Why not a narrative that says: inspite of a mediocre night by most of the Spurs, with seemingly every long rebound off a Lakers’ miss bouncing directly into a Lakers’ player’s hands, the Spurs hung in, making key defenses stops, key baskets and put themselves in a position to win or tie with one last shot. Perseverance, never say die, never give up. But no, we didn’t deserve to win. Bullshit. The guys didn’t deserve to lose on a crappy no-call by a ref who never should have been assigned to the game in the first place. Sure there were other missed calls in the game; the goal tend, the shot that barely hit the rim. But those were fast action misses, the kind that refs miss all night and on both ends of the court. The last one was simply inexcusable: right in front of Crawford with nothing else going on to distract his attention. So why should a game NOT be decided by a foul, anymore than it should or should not be decided by a missed shot, a turnover, a shot made, whatever. They’re all part of the game. To artificially make some distinction about how the last few seconds of a close game create a new set of rules is pure horseshit.

  2. Jonathan Shaw May 29, 2008

    How can we talk about game 4 and 48 minutes of basketball with only mentioning 2.7 seconds of it? Yes, it was a foul, yes Fisher’s ball hit the rim, yes Lamar Odom blocked Tony Parker’s layup before it hit the glass, yes Duncan took a stroll down the lane for his dunk, yes there were calls and no calls on both sides of the ball. Officiating is hard to do. Did the team that played better, out rebounded, out hustle win the game? Yup.

    We all need to move on both the Spurs and Lakers have…

  3. Dingo May 29, 2008

    jonathan, you’ll appreciate Matthew Powell’s latest over at PtR. He agrees with you.

  4. wilson May 30, 2008

    hey there…i have been reading your blog/posts for quite some time now..keep it up dude!~

    It’s really obvious that joe fucking crawford hates the spurs! why is this..well i dunno..he was just suspended for the rest of last season because of duncan and the spurs.. of course he has this personal grudge and vendetta against the spurs..

    Why can’t the nba just not have joe officiate a spurs game? is that so hard to do? why wont david stern and the nba just avoid this kind of things happening..of the hundreds of refs they have..why joe fucking crawford?!!!

    GOD..i hate joe crawford…him and bill o’reilly is on top of my list..


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