Listening to both teams, the media that covers them, and the respective fan bases, the highly-entertaining Western Conference Finals have been as much about the Lakers and Nuggets as they have about the officials in charge of policing the action.
With Game 6 looming, that’s not about to change — if anything, the refs seem to have wrested the attention away from the players on the court.
From the Denver Post:
Carmelo Anthony vs. Kobe Bryant started as the dominant story line of the Western Conference finals. But the talk now has faded into a near-daily conversation about referees, calls made, call not made and the effect it has had on the Nuggets and Lakers. The officials are becoming the story in a league that likes to keep that aspect as quiet as possible.
“When you get hit in the back of the head, knocked on your (butt), we’re human beings,” Nuggets coach George Karl said. “We react to the people of authority. Referees are the ones that have the authority that control the game the way they want to control it. I don’t think we lost the game because of the officiating. I don’t think I ever said that. It’s just that there’s a frustration when you’re playing at this stage on this level of intensity. It’s just hard. When you’re a competitor and you lose, you feel pain. And then you feel anger because of some of the things that you don’t have control over.”
J.R. Smith, however, said that [Phil] Jackson’s comments after Game 4 stuck in some players’ heads. “You always think about stuff like that,” Smith said. “You know that he went out there complaining, so you’re expecting them to get the calls the next game. So, we knew it was going to happen. We just didn’t play through it.”
It’s never a good sign for a league when its refs are hogging the spotlight away from the true stars of the game.