If the Orlando Magic had lost last night’s overtime thriller, talk show hosts and pen jockeys alike would have plenty of material to work with after several questionable calls that seemed to favor the Cavaliers.
Ex. 1 — After being corralled in the left corner, Dwight Howard takes the ball baseline and goes up for a lay-in while Anderson Varejao drapes him with an intentional foul. The ball hangs on the rim and eventually falls. Howard pumps his fits and yells. Referees give him a technical foul, boosting his postseason total to 6. (One more and he will receive an automatic one-game suspension from the league.)
Ex. 2 — Down by 2 with time winding down, LeBron James charges the lane and initiates contact with Mikael Pietrus, trips and falls. Pietrus is called for the foul. With 0.5 seconds left in regulation, James buries the free throws to tie the game.
Ex. 3 — After calling timeout, Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy draws up an alley-oop play from out-of-bounds intended for Howard. The set-up was the same as a game-winner they used two seasons ago against the San Antonio Spurs:
Howard attempts to take the same angle but he’s wrapped up by Varejao, who essentially yanks him into the first-row, not allowing Howard the position to complete the play. No foul is called. The game goes into overtime.
I’m sure NBA commissioner David Stern will rescind Howard’s latest technical. It was a heat-of-the-moment reaction, no more egregious then when James pounds his chest after a dunk. Already, I’ve read some commentaries on “superstar calls” — LeBron and Kobe are getting them, Howard isn’t.
Amazing game overall, though Orlando’s defense looked out of sorts several times last night. However, offensively, that was the kind of performance that can win a title. Beating teams with Howard inside and devestating outside-shooting makes Orlando a difficult match-up.
Hopefully Denver and Los Angeles are taking notes.