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Phillips: NBA referees need to be better

| Wednesday, February 27, 2019

NBA referees have been under fire recently for missing critical calls in close games. While these referees are human, something needs to be done.

The NBA came out on Saturday saying referees missed “multiple calls” at the end of the Boston Celtics-Milwaukee Bucks game Thursday. The Bucks ended up winning, but the NBA Officiating Last Two Minute Report discussed four missed calls in the final 3.7 seconds of the game. With a shot that would have sealed the game, Brook Lopez tipped in the ball after a jump ball tip from Giannis Antetokounmpo missed. However the bucket was waived off because the refs said that Lopez tried to shoot the ball, rather than tip it in, and you need at least 0.3 seconds to get a shot off. However, after review, the basket should have counted, and the Milwaukee Bucks should have been up three points with around three seconds remaining in the game. However, the score remained 98-97.

Moreover, there were missed calls on the final play of the game. Crew chief Mike Callahan stated that there were three missed calls on the final play, “An illegal screen by Kyrie Irving on Khris Middleton; a subsequent hold by Middleton on Marcus Morris to prevent him from using Irving’s screen to catch a wide-open lob at the rim; and an Eric Bledsoe foul on Irving on his drive before he missed what would have been a game-winning shot.” While Irving went on to miss the game-winning shot because it was off the mark, there were clearly issues with the officiating in the final plays of this game.

However, this is not the only recent criticism NBA referees have been getting. Another controversial issue surrounded a video of Bradley Beal of the Washington Wizards that went viral recently. On Feb. 11, the Wizards played the Detroit Pistons. While it was not a game-deciding call, Beal took four steps without dribbling while driving to the hoop in the fourth quarter. The travel was not called. It was an obvious walk, but the officials stood by their call.

Another case where the officiating was called into question was in the Philadelphia 76ers recent loss to the Boston Celtics. Joel Embiid was fouled by Al Horford on a shot that would have tied the game with 35 seconds remaining. However, no call was made. The Last Two Minute Report after this game stated that Horford made contact with Embiid on the shot and that Embiid should have been sent to the line. However, there was no call and the Celtics went on to win 112-109. Embiid was later fined $25,000 for criticizing the no-call at the end of the game, even though it was later ruled a foul.

So how do we combat this? When the game is on the line, it is difficult as fans of basketball to have to question the competency of the referees. With three officials on the court, how do we prevent these missed calls? Obviously the referees are human and doing their best to call these games fairly, but something needs to be done. The referees need to be more accessible for post-game interviews, and need to be held accountable for instances when there are missed calls. The referees also need to be more mobile during the games. This is a rather harsh critique, but with three referees it is easy to often let the play come to you. Ensuring referees are doing everything in their power to get the best angles for situations where the calls can change the course of the game is crucial. With these steps, as sports fans we can be reassured that our referees are going to call the game fairly to the best of their ability.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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