OAKLAND — Much of the chatter following Game 1 between the Warriors and Rockets pointed to what could have happened, and not what really did.
The Rockets side lamented that the officials missed several calls in their 104-100 loss to the Warriors, mainly citing “landing area” fouls — in which Golden State defenders didn’t allow Houston players to land on jump shots without being hit. The NBA later said the officials missed three calls in the closing minutes, which, in a four-point game, is obviously vital.
The poor officiating overshadowed a highly entertaining Game 1, featuring the NBA’s budding rivalry, three MVPs, superb shotmaking, and energetic defense. The Warriors wanted the attention to refocus on those latter aspects moving forward.
In Game 2, that happened. The Warriors outlasted the Rockets to a 115-109 win Tuesday, giving Golden State a 2-0 series lead. The referees called a clean game with very few questionable or controversial calls.
Steve Kerr said it best.
“I didn’t even notice the officiating,” Kerr said. “I don’t think anybody did, and I think that’s the best compliment you can give them. They did a great job, and this game was just about basketball.”
Over the past two days, Draymond Green grew tired of all of the hoopla about the officiating.
“It’s kind if disheartening for a game that I love since I was a child, to see the talk over the last few days was nothing about basketball, and everything about foul calls,” Green said. “Is that what this game is coming to, that talk is going to be about foul calls?”
Much of the talk came from Houston’s camp. The Athletic‘s Sam Amick reported extensively about Rockets general manager Daryl Morey’s analytics-driven approach, and how the Rockets use past findings to fuel their forward approach. Specifically, the Rockets claimed to have been stripped 93 points in last year’s Western Conference Finals matchup, which ended in seven games, with the Warriors due to foul calls. According to the report, the Rockets believe the Warriors, “are getting the kind of officiating edge that simply must be stopped.” They evidently hoped that wouldn’t continue one year later.
After Game 1, however, Rockets superstar James Harden said he “just wants a fair chance” in response to a question about late-game no-calls. That comment ignited the NBA world, considering the irony of Harden — who attempted more free throws than anyone in the NBA this year — complaining about officiating when he benefits from it so frequently.
Fast forward to Game 2 postgame, and Harden and Chris Paul acted as if they had no idea that their previous comments fostered so much conversation in the subsequent days.
“I don’t know,” Paul said. “I was chillin.'”
“Who, what chatter?” Harden chimed in. “There was no chatter.”
“We were just trying to get ready for Game 2,” Paul said.
If anyone had the right to be upset about officiating Tuesday, it was Green. He and Nene were assessed double technicals after getting tied up, though they could be rescinded in the following days.
Yet Green was more transparent than his opponents about the officiating.
“I think both teams just realized what the hell was going on the last few days,” Green said. “You can’t really turn a blind eye to anything in today’s day and age with social media and all of these things. Everyone who was aware of all the talk about officiating and foul calls, come out and play the game. I think both teams did a great job of that. They weren’t complaining about many calls, we weren’t complaining about many calls.
“It’s kind of embarrassing for the game of basketball, how much has been talked about fouls and officiating. What about beating your man and stopping your man? No one has talked anything about schemes the last few days. It’s all been about foul calls. I think both teams were just locked in on coming out and playing the game to the best of their ability, and you have to give credit to both clubs.”