Officiating: Quick quiz: What time is it? Quick answer: Zebra hunting time. Last night, Joe Crawfordy, Joe Forte, Mark Wunderlich and David Stern (in absentia) were The Four Horsemen of the Spurspocalypse. I mean, seriously, the no-call to end last night's game was completely, utterly and in all other ways inconceivable. I'm not even going to argue the point. The bottom line is this: Derek Fisher fouled Brent Barry. Marv Albert and Doug Collins knew it. Johnny Ludden knew it. Henry Abbott knew it. You knew it. I knew it. Nostradamus knew it way back in 1562. Helen Keller, Zeus rest her soul, would have known it. My 85-year-old grandma called me in the middle of the night to ask "What was up with that lousy no-call in the Spurs game?!" It's crazy.
Here's the video. It speaks pretty well for itself.
Now some people -- Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili among them -- believe that if Barry had gone straight up for the shot and tried to "sell the contact" (read that: flop), he would have gotten the whistle. I call shenanigans. Joey Crawford, who had the best line of sight on the play, wasn't going to toot his horn for any reason. And neither were his lackeys. Clearly, a choice had been made before the ball was ever passed inbounds: The players are going to decide the final outcome. Which would be fine if this was a pickup game at the YMCA. But this was a pro game, a big one, and there are referees for a reason. And that reason is to keep stupid incidents like this -- which, make no mistake, disgrace and dishonor the game -- from happening.
And let's face it, that grand faux pas wasn't an isolated case. Not historically, and not even in this particular game. The refs did not impress last night. Kobe Bryant managed to play 41 minutes without making a single trip to the charity stripe -- his series total for freethrow attempts is six -- leading Phil Jackson to quip: "It is impossible to take 29 shots and not be fouled, but tonight was one of those exceptions, I guess."
But wait, there's more! Before the foul that wasn't a foul even though it really was a foul, the Lakers had the ball and a two-point lead with 28 seconds left. L.A. dribbled out most of the shot clock before Fisher jacked up a baseline jumper that missed almost everything and got knocked out of bounds by Robert Horry with 5.6 seconds left. The official call was that the shot didn't hit the rim and so only two seconds were left on the shot clock. However...the replays sure made it look like the ball skimmed off the hoop. If the Lakers had gotten a new 24, the Spurs would have had to foul and the game would have been over. Instead, Kobe had to force up a shot that missed and fell right into the hands of the Spurs, who were left with 2.1 seconds to make a miracle happen.
But it didn't. The refs saw to that.
Random non-awful note: Kudos to the Spurs players and coaching staff for staying so classy about this whole thing. Most teams would be freaking the hell out about the injustice of it all. The Spurs were actually very Zen-like about it. Barry said: "That's not going to get called in the Western Conference finals. Maybe in the regular season. But that call shouldn't be called in the Western Conference finals." Gregg Popovich said: "If I was the official I wouldn't have called that a foul." And Duncan simply said: "Obviously we're in a hole and it's 3-1. It's one loss and an elimination, but we really feel that if we clean a lot of this stuff up we have an opportunity to get right back in this series." I guess you can never underestimate the inner-peace of a champion.
David Stern and the NBA: "Hm. Let's see. It's a critical playoff game between the Spurs and Lakers. Who should we get to officiate it? I know! How about the guy who was suspended for last year's playoffs because he ejected Tim Duncan for laughing! That'll make everybody totally forget about the Tim Donaghy scandal. Brilliant!"
Tim Duncan and Tony Parker: Other than Brent Barry -- who followed in Antonio McDyess' footsteps by having a 23-point turn-back-the-clock performance -- Timmy (29 points, 17 rebounds) and TP (23 points, 7 assists) were the only two Spurs to made a real offensive contribution to last night's losing effort. However, I'm sure you sense a "but" coming, don't you? Well, Timmy missed 16 shots and missed five layups. Mr. Longoria missed four layups.
Now, mind you, the Lakers were playing -- and were allowed to get away with -- an aggressive and physical defense. But instead of adjusting to that, Duncan and Parker kept flailing at contact, lobbing the ball at the rim, and looking around for a call that was never going to come.
Were they getting pushed around and hit on their shots? Sure. But I would have preferred to see them -- especially Tim -- do a better job at adjusting to how the refs were officiating the game. Especially in the first half.
Manu Ginobili: I guess that arthritic ankle is hurting him worse than we thought. Manu, how played like the Incredible Hulk in Game 3, transformed back into puny Bruce Banner for Game 4: 7 points, 2-for-8 shooting, 2 rebounds, 6 assists and 4 fouls. More than the officiating or anything else, Ginobili was the reason that San Antonio lost this game and is likely to lose the series on Thursday night.
The rest of the Spurs: Holy god, the Spurs roleplayers -- Barry excepted -- sucked. Francisco Oberto: Zero points, 0-for-0, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 turnover, 3 fouls, 21 minutes. Michael Finley: Zero points, 0-for-2, 1 turnover, 8 minutes. Robert Horry: 2 points, 0-for-2, 4 rebounds, 1 steal, 2 fouls, 15 minutes. Ime Udoka: Zero points, 0-for-0, 1 rebound, 1 assist, 1 foul, 8 minutes. Kurt Thomas: A mario. All I can say is that I hope the Spurs get a bulk discount at the NBA graveyard this summer.
Old legs: Was it just me, or did the Spurs look old and tired last night. They were a step slow to loose balls and they couldn't keep the Lakers off the boards. L.A. outrebounded San Antonio 46-37, which doesn't sound all that bad until you realize they enjoyed a 26-4 edge in second-chance points. Wow. I take it back, Manu. I guess it's not your fault after all.
Derek Fisher, quote machine: Here's Fish's explanation of the already infamous no-call: "I think we met simultaneously, and there was contact for sure. But I don't think I ran through him." Uh huh.
Sasha Vujacic: Well, if the Lakers had to win, at least Sasha blew chunks: 4 points, 1-for-6, 1 rebound, zero assists, 2 turnovers, 4 fouls.
Trevor Ariza: It's inspiring and everything that he's finally back from an injury, but I'm still going to mock his lowly one trillion.
Lakers fans: First off, they should not be allowed to sit near The Admiral. Second, they should be stuffed into an airtight capsule and launched into space for taking their picture with The Admiral without his permission.
Note on submissions: Due to technical difficulties, I haven't been able to check my e-mail today. So I apologize for omitting any worthy submissions. Hopefully, we'll get this blatant attack by Lakers fans taken care of shortly. (I'm kidding, Lakers fans. I know you don't have that kind of power.)