Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Best First Round NBA Playoff Series Is Being Ruined By Idiot Rules About Fouling

Goddamnit, NBA
Tonight in Los Angeles, the Clippers trailed in the fourth quarter. The Spurs intention- ally fouled C DeAndre Jordan relentlessly, destroying pace and racking up the bad karma... but the Clips kept grinding, getting loose balls, forcing turnovers, and eventually taking a 2-point lead in the final minute. One last steal gave the Clips the ball with 30 seconds left, Chris Paul pounding the dribble with a 2-point lead. All he needed to do was score or get to the line, get a make, and seal up highly deserved doom for the karmic misery that was relentlessly intentional fouling... only karma is a story and stories aren't facts, so Paul turned it over, then fouled in the transition game, and the Spurs tied it, with Patty Mills doing the honors. Then Paul missed an end of regulation jumper, and hey, more basketball.

In overtime, the game got good again. The Spurs didn't foul, made some shots, played actual defense against Jordan, and took the early lead. Paul fed JJ Redick for a tying three. Tim Duncan made an absurd shot while falling, part of an unreal throwback night, then Mills leaked out beautifully for a fast break to make the lead five. Blake Griffin turned it over twice in overtime, Kawhi Leonard snuck in for a backdoor layup, and the road team lead by six with a minute left. Paul made a hero three, but Redick missed a tying three attempt in transition with 15 seconds left on Leonard's late contest. Mills made more big free throws. Redick hit a three. Mills made two more to ice it, Griffin missed a too-late three, and the Spurs escaped with a 4-point overtime win. This is your only 1-1 series in the first round.

In short, the overtime was everything the fourth quarter should have been, and probably wasn't watched by anyone on the East Coast or Central time zones. Because it all happened past 1am EST, and after a half hour of Cover Your Eyes, teeth grinding misery.

Please note that I have no dog in the Spurs-Clips fight. San Antonio wins too often to be lovable, with their fans being way too fat and happy. I've never had love for them based on appreciation for a fantasy guy, since coach Gregg Popovich spreads the minutes too much to make that a winning play. The Clips have been difficult to love for a generation due to their ownership, and even the current renaissance has been spoiled by the presence of ex-Celtics. My only hope for this series is Good Basketball, and I'd be getting that...

Except that the NBA hasn't fixed the utterly reprehensible intentional fouling rules.

This should be about Tim Duncan. The man is about to turn 39, and was the best player on the floor for most of the game. He's the best power forward ever, played 44 minutes tonight and had 28 points. It should be about Mills, who was huge when the team needed him the most, and might have to be that big the rest of the way if Tony Parker is hurt. It should be about Leonard, so good defensively, so much of a team player on offense that he never demands touches, and always seems to come up big.

Instead, it's about fouling.

Look, I don't care, and no one who actually watches the games should care, about the strategic merits of this. And if you seriously want to argue to me that Jordan should just be better at shooting free throws, all that tells me is YOU DON'T WATCH THE GAMES. Because Jordan is a wonderful player with the exception of this one damned thing, so you don't care about how it looks. Besides, there is no other sport where everything stops because one guy isn't good at one small thing, and the other team can make the entire game about that.

Basketball is art and sport, with athletes from every continent coming to play here, at the highest level. You can't say that about any other sport. No one who plays this game is at risk for their future health. Franchises all have the same amount to spend, and small market franchises can keep their superstars if they are smart about it. The playoff season is fantastic.

But I just spent 3+ hours watching a game that should have ended in 2, and watched a team win that spit in the face of the Basketball Gods...

Because of the damned fouling.

Please, NBA, for the love of the game... fix this. Make the rules for the last two minutes the same as the rest of the game. It would end this in a heartbeat, and make everything better.

I don't care that you aren't supposed to change the rules in mid-year. Just tell your refs to tell the coaches, the day before the game, that if you do it, they are going to call illegal defense and technical fouls to compensate, and 2X every infraction. Also, that there will be punitive fines and the removal of draft picks if they go to the media about this.

Just. End. It.

Because there is no absolutely no excuse for the post-game to be about stupid fouling, and for a great 2-hour game to be hidden in an unwatchable 3-hour game.

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