The officiating in the Rockets vs. Warriors series threatens to define the rivalry

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The worst-case scenario for the NBA, its fans and the game itself is for the Golden State Warriors vs. Houston Rockets series to come down to a he said, he said on officiating.

This is a series rematch that has been a year in the making, perhaps the series that will determine this season’s champion, as it was last season. History and legacy are on the line — it’s that type of series. Then there’s the short-term, specifically the free-agency implications.

The Rockets have a strategy that pushes the limits of the rules, while the Warriors are as sly as any team in history. They’re both fantastic at what they do. And they are both relentless on the officiating — there were four technicals and an ejection right out of the gate in Game nike nfl jerseys wholesale

No one wanted Game 1 — an ugly but still highly competitive and entertaining opener that ended in a 104-100 Warriors win — to be defined by calls or non-calls. But, largely, it was. There just may be no end in sight.7

It’s easy to forget there are three teams on the floor at all times. Ideally, one of them remains anonymous and forgettable. The stakes and the nature of these teams make that most difficult.

When referees prepare for games, they go over film and tendencies, just like the teams. It is well known that the Rockets have a penchant for drawing fouls on 3-pointers. This is a part of their attack. James Harden drew 95 fouls on 3-pointers this season. He is one of the best in the history of the game at it.

It was clear that part of Golden State’s game plan is to crowd the Houston 3-point shooters. And the Houston game plan involves 3-point shooters twisting their bodies and ripping their arms into their defenders. Both teams are good at it.

So here it was. There were 10 seconds left and the Rockets were down 3. Harden, one of the greatest ever at drawing a foul, takes a 3-pointer to try to tie the game. Draymond Green, one of the great defenders of this era, leaps to challenge it.

Green comes forward into Harden’s area. Harden’s legs jackknife toward Green and he spills to the ground. Two officials, Courtney Kirkland and Josh Tiven, stare and call nothing.

“Call the game how it’s supposed to be called and that’s it,” Harden said. “And I’ll live with the results. But especially we all know what happened a few years back with Kawhi [Leonard]. That can change the entire series.”

Harden is referring to Leonard getting undercut by Zaza Pachulia in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals in 2017. This is a reference to the stakes. That play changed that game, that series and perhaps that season’s champion.