By Tim Reynolds, AP Basketball Writer
Golden State and Houston should be embarrassed.
And NBA fans should be livid.
Steve Kerr, the Warriors’ coach and about as classy an act as there is in the league, opened his media session Monday by pantomiming a flop on a reporter in the most thinly veiled jab he could possibly take at Houston’s James Harden. Not long after that, Rockets general manager Daryl Morey just happened to tweet out a story from 2016 about Kerr complaining about calls and getting fined.
This is what this series has come to after one game: Trolling and subtweeting?
What went on during — and more specifically, after — Game 1 is a bad look for both the Warriors and for the Rockets. Basketball is not the story in this series heading into Tuesday night’s Game 2. And given the quality of these teams, the best rivalry in the NBA, that’s a shame.
Harden is the reigning MVP who takes more free throws than anyone on the planet and still says he doesn’t get a fair whistle. His backcourt mate Chris Paul got fined $35,000 for his actions toward a ref that led to him being ejected late in the series opener. It’s a bad look for player of his caliber and a really bad look for the president of the National Basketball Players Association.
Yes, the Rockets’ chances were hurt by missed calls, particularly when it came to not giving Harden proper space to land on 3-point shots in what has been a point of emphasis for NBA refs over the last couple years.
Maybe it cost them the game.
But there are missed or bad calls in every NBA game.
The Rockets commissioned a study of Game 7 of their series against Golden State and last year. The study reportedly determines the Rockets believe there were 81 plays that should have been officiated differently and that referees not only decided the outcome of that game but ultimately the NBA championship. The NBA says it doesn’t see it that way, and it should be noted that the Rockets missed nine free throws and 37 3-pointers — including 27 in a row — in what ended up as a nine-point loss to the Warriors.
It’s easy to blame the officiating. Mike Callahan, Scott Foster and Derrick Stafford, however, didn’t force the Rockets into a 7-for-44 night from 3-point land in the final game of their 2017-18 season. Calls were missed that night. Calls were missed Sunday in Game 1. Calls will be missed in Game 2. It happens.
For the Rockets’ report to come out now … well, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out the methodology there.
And the Warriors, they’re not exactly new to the blame game either.
Kevin Durant and Draymond Green were tied for second in the league during the regular season, piling up 15 technical fouls each. They have another five combined in the playoffs. When Green is involved in a play where he’s either whistled for a foul or when he believes he is fouled but it’s not called, he usually argues, often vehemently. And Kerr isn’t shy about getting on refs, usually not doing so with any subtlety.
The antics usually take away from the game, as it did in the series opener.
“It sucks that that is the narrative coming out of it, because we literally could exhaust our energy on that as well,” Warriors guard Stephen Curry said Monday. “So what are you going to do about it? Hopefully Game 2 it’s about the game and how we play and making shots and the energy and intensity that we need to play with, knowing what’s at stake, and that becomes the conversation.”
Doubt that will happen.
These teams are elite at basketball.
They’re also elite when it comes to whining.
This is the series NBA fans wanted to see. Maybe it’ll start being about basketball soon.
Tim Reynolds is a national basketball writer for The Associated Press. Write to him at email@example.com
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