Celtics-Heat: Are The Refs Playing Too Big a Part?

Referees are like parents. Always telling you “no” and “stop that” and “eat your vegetables” (OK, maybe not) when you just want to run around, shove some kids, and have a little fun. But, just like parents, they’re necessary.

Unfortunately, in this Celtics-Heat match-up, they’re also kind of blowing it. Throughout the series, there have been plenty of calls that have elicited some confused/shocked/WTF reactions. Fouls are going out left and right, and it makes a fan wonder if these refs are deciding the series.

Paul Pierce fouled out only three times in 122 playoff games before this season. Not bad. Now, in the past six games alone, he’s fouled out three times. Um, what? Pierce is certainly an aggressive player, drawing contact almost every time he drives to the basket, and practicing tough defense, but that stat seems a little outrageous.

In Game 2, when the Heat defeated the Celtics in a 115-111 overtime battle, Miami shot 47 free throws (of those, LeBron James had 24), while Boston shot 33. Not only that, Celtics forward Greg Stiemsma received four foul calls in just three minutes during the first quarter.

The Heat have suffered, too. In Game 4, with only 1 minute, 51 seconds to play in OT, James was ejected after a pretty terrible offensive foul call. And let’s face it: his absence in the final moments may have helped the Celtics achieve their 93-91 victory. For James, this was his first foul-out in 107 playoff games — not exactly a regular occurrence.

Apparently, the refs are using the Oprah method: You get a foul! And you get a foul! And you get a foul! It all begs the question: Are the refs making or breaking the Celtics’ shot at another title?

To put it simply: No. And it’s because our guys are still fighting, despite the adversity. Sure, there’s been a lot of shouting at refs and frustration from players, including Rajon Rondo, who called out the Heat for crying to the officials in Game 4. But have you seen his stats? In Game 5, he tallied 13 assists, six rebounds, and four steals. He continues to make beautiful passes and alley-oops, and even redeemed his own miss with an impressive left-handed shot. Kevin Garnett dropped a double-double, and Pierce racked up 19 points. Most importantly, they got the W, pulling ahead in the series 3-2. The lousy calls clearly aren’t stopping the Celtics from playing their hardest.

Complain all you want about how awful the refs have been in this series (I certainly will), but in the end, it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that the players stay focused. Losing their cool after a bad call could lead to losing the game. They cannot be distracted by the referees’ sub-par performance. If the Celtics let the officials decide the outcome of this series, that would be the true loss here.

With Game 6 looming, maintaining this focus is more crucial than ever. There’s no room for distractions tonight. Accept the call and get back in the game. Keep fighting. Forget the refs.

You never really listened to your parents when they scolded you anyway, right?