By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The officiating in the NBA is bad. Real bad.
The Celtics learned that the hard way at the end of Game 4 against the Bucks on Sunday. The Bucks learned that the hard way at the end of Game 5 on Tuesday. Notice a trend?
Milwaukee is patiently awaiting the release of Game 5’s Last Two Minute Report, though they already have a pretty good idea of what it’s going to say. The officials missed an obvious shot clock violation on Boston’s Al Horford, and the Bucks should have gotten the ball back with 1:19 left down by five. Instead, Milwaukee stood around with their arms in the air and Terry Rozier was able to track down the long rebound to give Boston an extra possession.
The Celtics didn’t score any points after Thon Maker fouled Rozier, but Boston was able to melt another 20 seconds off the clock. The Bucks were still incredulous at the no-call following the game and voiced their displeasure after Boston’s 92-87 win.
“I think it was bulls—, point blank,” guard Eric Bledsoe told reporters before Milwaukee’s PR guy ended his session.
Bucks interim coach Joe Prunty was a little more reserved after the game (because he looks more like a bank teller than an NBA coach), but said the explanation he received from officials wasn’t good enough.
“I was asking for a shot clock violation. I didn’t think he got the ball off, so I said, ‘That’s a shot clock violation.’ That was my discussion,” said Prunty. “You’ll have to ask them if they can review it. I just know what I said, it’s a shot clock violation.”
It just so happens that ref Kenny Mauer was asked about the play after the game, and according to the rule book, it’s one of the few things in the NBA that is not reviewable.
“The rule states that under two minutes we are not allowed to review a potential 24-second violation unless the ball goes in the basket,” Mauer told the NBA’s pool reporter.
So if Horford had hit his long two, the points would have been taken off the board and the Bucks would have been awarded the ball. But because he missed, the Celtics were able to benefit from it. Makes perfect sense, right?
The Bucks have every right to be ticked off about this. Ref James Williams was just a few feet away from the play and should have seen it. It was so blatant there wouldn’t have been a need for the usual frame-by-frame analysis of the replay to see that Horford didn’t get his shot off before the shot clock hit zero. It was as obvious as they come, and even Celtics fans would admit that. Unfortunately, terrible officiating is part of the NBA. Missed calls should shock no one, even if they are as blatant as Tuesday night.
Ranting and raving may make the Bucks feel a little better, but they should focus on the fact that the blown call isn’t the reason they find themselves in a 3-2 series hole heading into Thursday’s Game 6 in Milwaukee. They turned the ball over 11 times and shot just 37 percent from the floor in Game 5, and even if they had gotten the ball, the were still down by five with 89 seconds to go. That isn’t a situation ripe for a comeback, especially the way the Celtics played defense on Tuesday.
Maybe this is just the NBA deities balancing out a series that has been filled with horrendous officiating. Giannis Antetokounmpo has been getting away with just about anything and everything, and on Monday, the Last Two Minute Report for Game 4 admitted that Khris Middleton fouled Jaylen Brown in the act of shooting with 42 seconds left. The Celtics were leading by one at the time, 100-99, and instead of Brown getting a pair of freebies to try to add to that lead, the Bucks gained possession and Malcolm Brogdon drained a 3-pointer to give Milwaukee the lead. Boston lost the game by two.
But rather than complain about that missed called, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens shrugged it off and said he doesn’t even read those reports about the officials’ inability to do their jobs correctly. Brown responded with a shrugging guy emoji on Twitter. Maybe the Bucks should borrow either of those two plays on Wednesday, and just focus on extending their season Thursday night.