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Those guys with whistles

Posted Friday, June 29, 2012, at 10:07 PM

I had listened intently to Charles Barkley, Shaquille O'Neal, Magic Johnson and other experts after each NBA Finals game to learn things I hadn't been able to see for myself. Then I realized that something I could see was much too big a factor. They said the Thunder were getting a lot more penalties called on them than the Heat, but no one ever said the referees had helped the Thunder in the first game in Oklahoma City, called it even in the second and backed the Heat in the last three games in Miami. It's good business to send the home crowd home happy but bad news for the credibility of the game.

As easy as a foul shot is for most players, the team with the most chances there will usually win a close game. The Thunder made 20 of 27 and the Heat 14 of 18 in the first game June 12, won 105-94 by the Thunder. The Heat won two nights later, 100-96, with 22 free throws made among 25 attempted to the Thunder's 19 of 26. Penalties were the difference in the pivotal third game June 17 in Miami, where the Heat, otherwise outplayed, made 31 of 35 and the Thunder 15 of 24 in the Heat's 91-85 win.

The last two games had similar box scores with the Heat making 18 of 25 and the Thunder 15 of only 16 opportunities June 19, when Miami won by 104-98. The Heat canned 27 of 33 and the Thunder 23 of 26 June 21, when Miami took the championship, 121-106. The series' totals were Miami 112 of 136 and Oklahoma City 92 of 119, so the Heat got 17 more chances and scored 20 more points from the free throw line for an average advantage of four points per game. Miami shot the better percentage, 82.5 to 77.3.

I didn't mind seeing Miami win because LeBron James played the best basketball of his life and Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade fought hard against injuries; but Oklahoma City would have won the third game and maybe the fourth and taken the series back home if the refs had called it fairly. Both teams gave it all they had and I would have liked to see them decide the outcome, not the guys with the whistles.

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James R. Campbell
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