Saturday, July 01, 2006

Sore Loser

Note: Since writing this post, I've gone on to do an entire blog on the Dallas Mavericks.

I think I'm finally at peace about the Dallas Mavericks' season.

If you don't follow the NBA, you should know that my team made it to the Finals for the first time in its history, won the first two games emphatically, and then lost four in a row (and the series) to Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat.

However, even though I probably won't lose any more sleep over this (and I have lost sleep since June 20), I want to make a simple request, that anyone out there who enjoys NBA basketball watch 5 youtube clips before we put the 2005-2006 season to bed.

Let me explain.

Ordinarily, only Losers make excuses. But I truly feel that the referees, for two games of the NBA Finals, made enough unfair calls in favor of Miami's Dwyane Wade that the Mavericks did not get a fair shot at winning the series. Clearly, they could have (and, frankly, should have) overcome the bad officiating, but I feel justified in my complaints because I don't think Miami could have beat Dallas without it.

Let me give an excerpt from a column by Bill Simmons, a sports writer for who's a Celtics fan but likes the way Dallas plays:

In my Finals preview, I wrote that "No team depends on the refs quite like the Heat. When the refs are calling all the bumps on Shaq and protecting Wade on every drive, they're unstoppable. When they're calling everything fairly, they're eminently beatable. If they're not getting any calls, they're just about hopeless. I could see the refs swinging two games in Miami's favor during this series, possibly three. In fact, I'm already depressed about it and the series hasn't even started yet." Well, we had our two games -- Game 3 (the last five minutes were just obscene) and Game 5 (again, a top-five debacle). And the series isn't over yet.

[Note: I looked over the play-by-play of game 3, and Simmons must be mistaken. There's only one foul call in Wade's favor in that stretch. But game 5 was pretty bad.]

Simmons made those comments after game 5, an overtime thriller featuring 3 lead changes in the last 30 seconds. The last lead change, in favor of Miami, came on two Dwyane Wade free throws due to a questionable foul call against the Mavs' Dirk Nowitzki after Wade drove, out of control, into the lane and missed a wild shot with 1.9 seconds left and the Mavs leading by 1. The referee who made the call was out of position, and is known for making highly questionable calls in favor of the home team in big games (Miami was at home). If there's no foul call, the buzzer sounds (barring a miracle) and the Mavs win.

This was an exceedingly frustrating loss for Dallas, and Miami took a 3-2 series lead.

But game 6 was probably worse.

OK, just watch these 5 clips of the Mavericks supposedly fouling Dwyane Wade, and decide if the Mavericks were give a reasonable opportunity to win the game. Whatever you decide, I'll be satisfied knowing that people saw what really happened.

1: Wade flops on a jump shot

2: Wade throws his shoulder into Devin Harris

3: Marquis Daniels doesn't even touch Wade

4: Does Daniels push Wade that hard?

5: Wade thows a hard elbow into Dirk

While the third clip is the most blatantly bad foul call, it's the last clip that's the most painful. The Mavericks were down by a point with less than 30 seconds left, and the Heat had the ball. Not an enviable position for Dallas. But this happens to good teams all the time. The test is whether they can get a defensive stop and get the ball back with a chance to win.

I don't think Dallas was given a fair opportunity to defend Wade on that crucial play.

He threw a hard elbow into Dirk's gut, which should have been an offensive foul against Wade. That would have sent Dirk to the line with 26 seconds left and a chance to hit two free throws and give Dallas the lead. Instead, they called the foul against Dirk, and Wade went to the line for his 18th and 19th free throw attempts of the game. The Heat went on to win the game by 3, which gave them the championship and Wade the MVP trophy.

It often gets said in sports that a true champion will find a way to win, will hit the big shot when it counts. My complaint about the finals is, the Heat didn't make these big plays any better than the Mavericks did, at least not in games 5 and 6. Both teams hit and missed on big plays. But Wade, in each of these clips from throughout the game, was given free throws that the Mavericks didn't receive.

Considering three of the Heat wins were decided by 1, 2, and 3 points, I would argue that that matters. It makes me sad that the Mavericks couldn't pull off the victory anyway. But what made me angry is that I don't think the Heat could have pulled off the victory either, without the favorable calls.

When you've invested a lot in a team, that's tough to swallow.


scoots said...

Here's a couple of thoughts I wanted to include that didn't really fit into the flow of the post:

1. I know this post is silly. Sports aren't real life; they're just another way to pass the time. But if you're willing to invest real emotional in a team, I think sports are the greatest entertainment in the world.

2. I unabashedly refer to the Mavericks in the first person plural. Even though no one in the Mavs organization knows or cares who I am, I think the fact that they only have a league because fans like me have cared about them for years gives fans this right. (Besides, I followed them in the 90's when they were the worst franchise in professional sports.)

3. I know refs are just people, and these things can never be completely fair. And I doubt I could do any better in their position. But at some point, enough is enough.

4. I get more emotional about the Mavericks than I do about anything else. For example, I was never as emotionally stirred up over my recent Ph.D. applications as I was over every playoff game the Mavs played this year. That's not to say I cared more about the Mavericks, but when it comes to raw emotion, it's true. I know this is sad, and I suspect it's some sort of pathology, but I don't think it's unusual.

Connor said...

I thought I had put this behind me but then you come along and now I may have to seek therapy. I think some of us were chosen before creation to be Mavericks fans and suffer through, no other reason explains why I care.

Lets face it, the refs sucked but the Mavs should of run the Heat out of the building. They lost the series, the Heat just stood around and accepted the Mavs resignation.

scoots said...

I agree. If the Mavs "deserved" to win, it was only because both teams in the Fnals defaulted and Dallas had to beat tougher teams (read: real teams) to get there. It should be embarrassing for the Mavericks that they somehow allowed a team as mediocre as Miami to take the title.

However, I have no regrets from watching the Mavs this year. They finally made the Finals, they won one of the best playoff series ever, Dirk scored 50 against Phoenix and proved he can make huge shots at the end of the game (one each against Memphis, San Antionio, and Miami), plus no one gets to claim any more that the Mavericks aren't a real contender.

And as a consolation prize for spiteful Mavs fans, the only two players who hit game-winning shots in the series were Payton and Dirk (at least his should have been). The Heat don't get any good highlights of Shaq *or* Wade from the ends of games 5 or 6, because all there is to show is a missed layup waved off by a ticky-tack call in one case and Wade punching Dirk in the stomach in the other. And Wade hitting free throws. Lots and lots of free throws.

Oh––and sure enough, last night I fell asleep angry again.

scoots said...

Sorry to keep commenting on my own post, but here's a link (if anyone's interested) for a page that dissects the officiating from game 5, including Wade's missed layup at the end, from an unbiased perspective:

Connor said...

Yes, it was a great season. Unfortunately I didn't see hardly any games and moved in with people who had a TV only right before the finals started, which allowed me to see two wonderfully great games of the Mavs at their best and then... well... I don't want to go to bed angry...

I think what allowed me to really get over it was to be in Dallas last week and listen to "The Ticket" (Dallas sports radio) play clips from after the first two games. It was very sad and great comedy.

In the end though, we (me and you are part of the team) got screwed on the officiating.

Scott Slaughter said...

*begins another week of sobbing*

essentially every game we LOST was close. which makes all of the focus fall onto the refs. but when they didnt come out and destroy miami in game 6 at home....

*breaks down again and calls psyco-theripist, balling*

i recorded all of it to dvd, and then didnt even bother labeling the disks. so i have all the joy of the mavs getting to where many thought they never could, to the heartache of miami series

i even sent the entire Suns series to him in Afgahistan.

on a final note..

WOOHOOO 1310 The Ticket
im soooo glad they didnt fall into the bash the mavs mode when it was over.

scoots said...


I would just about die for copies of the games on DVD -- especially the San Antonio and Miami series, plus maybe Dirk's 50 against Phoenix. Do you have all those? Is there any way you could copy them, or is it too time-consuming? If you can do it, just let me know how much $ it would be for the time and media.

Email me or something.

Anonymous said...

Scott I love that you are a man who loves God so deeply and then would be this passionate about a team. I love it. Happy Thursday! Sharyl