The NBA: I guess it wouldn't be the playoffs without a whole bunch of controversy surrounding the officiating, and just think, we're only in the first round! After Tuesday's debacles which had the whole internets all atwitter over the Dwight Howard elbow and Rajon Rondo slap/punch, and the way the refs blew both calls, potentially costing the underdogs in those series the games (and maybe the series); the NBA followed up the reffing snafu with a partial front office snafu. They correctly decided to suspend Dwight Howard for Game 6, sending the message that just cause you punch someone in the head with your elbow, it's still a punch, and still punishable with a suspension (if not an ejection). But then the league office followed that decision up by announcing that Rajon Rondo's foul was just a shooting foul and was not flagrant, sending the message that in crunch time be sure to knock a guy trying to hit a game winner in the head, because that's just smart basketball.
Now, I understand why the NBA felt it had to go this route with the Rondo play, because if they had upgraded it to a flagrant one, it essentially would have been like telling the Bulls "sorry, we blew that one, you probably should have ended up winning that game," and you know the NBA really didn't want to do that. On the other hand, if they'd upgraded the foul to a flagrant two then it would have been like saying "Sorry Bulls, you should have won that last game, but to make up for it, how bout we try to make up for it by unnecessarily suspending one of Boston's best players for the next game?" This is why nobody should be hoping and waiting for the NBA's league offices to clean up the messes a day after the refs make them. Just empower the refs to use instant replay at their discretion so we can avoid these kinds of costly errors.
OK, now on to why the NBA is up for last night's Worst Of. Clearly after this dog and pony show for the press and all us fans, you could tell that the NBA pulled the refs for tonight's game aside and told them to really bring the hammer down on any hard fouls. That's the only explanation for why some rather standard light pushing and staring down of players under the basket in the Heat-Hawks game resulted in four technical fouls, and why a rather innocuous block from Dwyane Wade resulted in a flagrant one foul. You can see the two plays for yourself below, the first one is at the 42-second mark and the second one is at the 59-second mark:
The Miami Heat: With the series tied 2-2 every game is huge, especially Game 5 which determines who is on the verge of advancing to the next round, and who is on the verge of elimination. With that as the backdrop, the Heat came out and got flat out embarrassed, allowing themselves to be outscored in the 2nd quarter 39-20 en route to a 23 point halftime lead that basically turned the second 24 minutes of the game into extended garbage time. The game was so out of hand in the second half that Josh Smith tried a between his legs dunk on a breakway fast break which missed so badly it barely drew iron. Michael Beasley and Dwayne Wade were the only Heat players which really came to play last night, and even they didn't play that great, as Beasley got his 18 points on 5-12 shooting and 23 of Wade's 29 points came in the second half when the game was already basically over.
Josh Smith: From Stotts Era: "Gotta, gotta, gotta give a WOTN to Josh Smith of the Atlanta Hawks...with the game well in hand for the Hawks, J-Smooth on a breakaway, does up for a dunk in which he passes the ball between his legs!! This is not the dunk contest, Josh. Anyways of course he bricks the dunk and Frattelo says "You wonder if he'll ever learn." Josh Smith, easily the most immature 5 year veteran ever." And here's the video. Go to the 1:30 mark.
Update! Hawks radio announcer Steve Holman of 790 The Zone: (From Larry Brown Sports Via Ball Don't Lie) Last night, Steve redefined homerism in a way that would make Bobby "The Brain" Heenan blush. Key quotes: "You can't foul me when I go to the basket, I have a hurt head. I'm Dwyane Wade. I do commercials." "Look, I'm Dwyane Wade, you can't call that!" and "Oh my goodness, the Heat have resorted to thuggery!"
The New Orleans Hornets: Doesn't it seem like it wasn't too long ago that the Hornets were considered one of the favorites to win the NBA title this year? How quickly things can change. Fresh off the worst playoff defeat in NBA playoffs history (at home, no less), the Hornets ended their season with their fourth defeat in the first round of 15 points or more, losing in Denver 107-86. New Orleans came out wanting to show the world that they hadn't quit, by playing the Nuggets to a tie through the first 30 minutes of the game. Of course, after that valiant effort, the Hornets then went ahead and quit anyway, letting Denver go on a 24-4 run which iced it. Including the playoffs the Hornets finished the year by losing 8 of their last 11 games. This is the first time Denver has advanced to the second round in 15 years and was the first 7-game series the Nuggets had won in almost a quarter of a century.
Chris Paul: It wasn't nearly as bad as the 4 points, 6 assists and 6 turnovers he had in Game 4, but with the hopes of his whole team riding on his back he needed to come up bigger last night than 12 points on 16 shots. He did chip in 10 assists and 6 boards in 46 minutes of play though, and honestly it's tough to fault Paul too much considering the amount of physical abuse he suffered this whole series. It's too bad Paul's team didn't have his back more with all the hits he took at the hands of the Nuggets.
Lacktion report: Even with only two games, Chris was wallowing in lacktivity.
Heat-Hawks: Jamaal Magloire racked up a brick and rejection for a +2 in 5:01, his second straight game with a suck differential!
Atlanta brought out multiple human victory cigars with varying results: Mario West ruined a potential eleven trillion with an assist, but Acie Law laid down a brick from downtown and a giveaway for a +2 in 4:59, while Randolph Morris took a foul and brick for his own +2 in 3:21 (that also notched a 1:0 Madsen-level Voskuhl). And Thomas Gardner raked in a payday of 1.35 trillion!
Hornets-Nuggets: Lacktivity was in abundance in yet another thwacking by Denver, the conclusion to their first playoff series victory in 15 years. First off was Byron Scott's duo of dubiousness, as Julian Wright flew into the ledger with a brick-and-foul +2 in 3:57, while Ryan "Absolutely Not Bruce" Bowen saw his teammate's unproductivity and upped the ante by adding a rejection to his own identical stats for a +3 in 1:38.
Not to be outdone, George Karl sent out several walking embodiments of nicotine to celebrate his first series conquest as Nuggets coach. Jason Hart took one foul for a +1 in 1:37, while Renaldo Balkman scored a Mario 64 (not a true Mario, but a 64 second stint!) with one brick from the steps of the Denver Mint for +1.
The ESPN Playoff Ticker: Several of you loyal 'bawfulites pointed out a little problem with The Network's ability to track series standings. Unless, of course, the first round just got a whole lot longer and nobody told us about it.
Associated Press, unintentionally dirty headline machine: Basketbawful reader Joel P. drew my attention to perhaps the greatest headline in the history of Western Civilization: Girl beats off muggers with marching band baton. Said Joel: "I'm no editor, but unless the editor was living with Borat for the past 20 years, they should have caught this one...plus pondering exactly how one 'beats off' a mugger with a baton is going to occupy my brain for much longer than it should."
About the author: Wild Yams is a frequent reader of Basketbawful and many other basketball blogs, and is just as much a pain in the ass here as he is on those other sites. Like LeBron James, he likes to refer to himself in the third person, but unlike LeBron James, he has not mastered the crab dribble.