Saturday, May 3, 2014

Toronto Raptors 83 at Brooklyn Nets 97 - Eastern Conferce Quarterfinal, Game 6 - May 2, 2014




The Brooklyn fans have been anything but supportive of their team through the first five games of the playoff, leading to their own Twitter account to call them out, so it was no surprise to see ticket prices drop to face value on StubHub just an hour before Game 6. Against my better judgement, I purchased a decent seat on impulse and hurried over to the Barclays Center. Having heard about the officiating being biased in Brooklyn's favour and knowing how the NBA gets what they want, I fully expected the Nets to win, but optimism prevailed over cynicism and off I went. I arrived a few minutes before tipoff but due to the venue's insane security rigmarole, did not get seated until 3 minutes had passed and the Raptors were already down 7-4 with 2 fouls. It was obvious immediately that Toronto had not shown up to play, while Brooklyn was dominating inside. The Nets ended the first quarter on a 20-8 run, and when Jonas Valanciunas was whistled for his 3rd foul, a bogus loose ball call just 90 seconds into the second, he was forced to sit. The Nets never looked back. On the other hand, I spent the rest of the evening regretting my decision and might just stop going to the NBA altogether.



Now I am not going to claim that there is some grand conspiracy at NBA headquarters where Adam Silver phones up the referees and tells him who should win. That's because they already know. Check out these numbers: 7-3, 7-5, 4-3, 7-3. This is the not the score to some bizarre tennis match, but the fouls in every quarter, with the Raptors the higher number in all cases. To be fair, the last three were committed in garbage time, but make no mistake, the officiating was one-sided here, even though it didn't need to be! The Raptors were terrible! Before the game, Jason Kidd had the gall to criticize the referees after Game 5, earning himself a $25,000 fine. He got his money's worth.



Is the NBA Fixed?

In a word, no. A fix implies a premeditated conspiracy between several parties. That is simply not possible. But in certain cases, the league benefits from specific outcomes. Previous instances of refs favouring the team that helps television ratings are well documented. There is no other possible explanation for the decisions made in that 2002 game other than official bias for the Lakers to get them to the finals. Nobody in the league wanted Sacramento in the finals. And now nobody in the league wants Toronto in the second round.

I write this less than 24 hours before Game 7 is scheduled to start. There is no chance the Raptors will win that game. The Brooklyn money line is +130 to +145 depending on which sports book you use, and a sure bet. In related news, the league has seen fit to suspend Zach Randolph for a "punch" that will ensure the Thunder move on, and it's no surprise to see five Game 7s to push Donald Sterling from the news.

ESPN hypes the games without criticism, and certainly there have been some amazing finishes such as Damian Lillard's shot with 0.9 seconds left to send Portland on, but in the end, the league is clearly working towards higher ratings through whatever means possible. If you are a Raptors fan, you might as well give up now, the team will never win a championship, there is simply too much money at stake.

Update: Toronto made it close, but lost by a point. In reality though, this game was decided in the second quarter. Toronto's two top scorers, Amir Johnson and Kyle Lowry, combined for 11 fouls (Johnson fouled out) while the Nets top two, Joe Johnson and Marcus Thornton, combined for 0. The only reason Toronto made it close is because the Nets missed some free throws and committed a stupid turnover with 6 seconds left - even the league can't control that.

Update 2: I had no idea that Tim Donaghy had appeared on the Jeff Blair show in advance of the series to say that it would be rigged. I am basing my accusations on what happened in Game 1 and what I saw live in Game 6. The series was handed to the Nets and they almost threw it away.

Best,

Sean

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