The Brooklyn Nets were blown out 107-86 in Game One of their Eastern Conference semifinal matchup against the defending champion Miami Heat Tuesday, and Toronto Raptor fans are once again left shaking their heads at what could have been.
Fans of the Raptors believe it should be their team, not Brooklyn, trying to dethrone the champs and have specifically blamed the NBA’s referees for making calls that went in the Nets favor in Game Seven of their first round series.
In Sunday’s Game Seven against Brooklyn, the Raptors and guard Kyle Lowry were down by one point with the ball and the chance to win the franchise’s first playoff series in 13 years at the Air Canada Centre.
Lowry drove to the lane, lost control of the ball, recovered in the paint and attempted a floater, but the Nets Paul Pierce blocked the shot and there appeared to be some body contact as Lowry fell to the floor.
The Nets won 104-103 and advanced but the Raptors contingency was incensed, taking to Twitter to decry referees Derrick Stafford, Joe Crawford and Bill Spooner for not calling a foul on Pierce.
â€” Michele Curia (@michelecuria7) May 4, 2014
That mob outside the ACC better make sure these refs need a police escort to get outta Raptors Square!!!!
â€” Mastermind (@MastermindLive) May 4, 2014
â€” jian ghomeshi (@jianghomeshi) May 4, 2014
Online betting website Odds Shark keeps statistics on NBA referees and lets bettors know which officials will be working each game. The site specifically states it does not suggest that NBA refs “deliberately influence the outcome” of games, but that referees do have certain tendencies much like how many players perform better at home than on the road.
Based off Odd Sharks stats from this season, home teams have a 33-38 record when Crawford calls a game compared to 34-32 with Spooner and 19-17 with Stafford. On average, a crew with Spooner calls road teams for 1.5 more fouls, a crew with Stafford actually whistles the home team more but only by a tenth of a percentage point and for Crawford its six-tenths. Home teams also score more points over away teams with all three.
In total, the Nets were called for 206 fouls to 203 for Toronto during the series. The Raptors also shot 181 free throws to 161 for Brooklyn.
After Game Seven, none of the Raptors derided the referees for the non-call on Pierce, and head coach Dwane Casey praised Lowry’s effort instead.
“That young man did everything he could to get to the basket. He tried to will his way to get that extra point,” Casey said to the Toronto Sun.
The Nets also complained about the referees. Brooklyn head coach Jason Kidd questioned how referees were treating Nets guard Joe Johnson after he took 24 shots from the field but only one free throw attempt in Game Five, and the NBA later fined Kidd $25,000.
"If flopping is the way to go, then we have to maybe play that game," Kidd said. "But Joe is a strong individual and unfortunately, he doesn't flop. He plays and he doesn't complain. But that's why we have officials, for them to make calls."
Referees, umpires and line judges have been blamed for losses in all sports. However, the NBA has faced specific derision ever since former referee Tim Donaghy accused the league of allegedly ordering referees to make “superstar calls” or to favor a team from a bigger market.
Donaghy, who pleaded guilty to gambling charges in 2007 and spent 15 months in federal prison, now works as a handicapper and in a radio interview before the Raptors-Nets series said that the NBA would sit the assigned referees down and tell them which calls to focus on throughout the series.
Many feel the NBA wanted Brooklyn to advance to play Miami, in favor of pitting Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Deron Williams against the Heat’s LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Donaghy said the league was hoping for better television ratings that a Brooklyn-Miami series would possibly draw, rather than Raptors and Heat.
Following Tuesday’s victory by Miami, Raptors fans continued to lament about what could have been.
raptors that could've been us but the refs playin
â€” Sinthuja S. (@sinthuja_xO) May 7, 2014
â€” Mr2KImpossible (@Mr2KImpossible) May 7, 2014
â€” Julian Barbosa (@JuLiaNs_World) May 5, 2014