Before we start, let me just take my objective blogger hat off for a minute, to say: this was the worst officiated game I’ve watched all year. I spend most of the season giving officials the benefit of the doubt: that they do not play favorites and that they do their best to call things both ways. Then I watch a game like this and it makes me question those notions. It seemed as if, all night, the Raptors were allowed to be physical, body up players, flop, and run through Cavalier players to get loose balls and play defense, while Cavs’ players were consistently being called for touch fouls when the Floptors fell over from stiff breezes. It very much reminded me of the despicable Jazz teams from the Sloan era, or the flopping antics of a young Manu Ginobili. And let’s not even talk of my least favorite NBA officiating blunder: the pump fake where the defender jumps, yet comes down in front of the offensive player, and then offensive player throws his shoulder into the defender while he attempts a flailing jump-shot and then gets a whistle (yes, I’m talking about you, Kyle Lowry).
To compound that, Cavaliers like Anthony Bennett were being nitpicked for travel calls, while Terrence Ross and DeMarr DeRozen were getting away with equal or worse violations. (At one point in the fourth, I’m quite sure DeRozan did not have a pivot foot, but had a pivot shoe — as long as one part of the pivot shoe touched the ground, it was not a travel). The fun culminated in the last minute (click the links for video), when the Cavs were down three, and Kyle Lowry drew a charge from Kyrie Irving. Lowry started inside the charge circle when contact started (1:01), and the officials even reviewed the play, yet ruled for Lowry. Thirty seconds later, DeMar DeRozan ran through Tyler Zeller, hip checked Tyler, and got a steal while Zeller crashed to the floor as the whistle remained silent (0:31). 10 seconds later, with the Cavs down five, Kyrie Irving drove for a layup, got thudded by Amir Johnson’s backside knocking him out of the air during a layup (0:21). That last interpretation of the “rule of verticality” would have made Keith Ballard proud. But putting my blogger hat back on, I’m quite sure that my objectivity as a fan clouds my judgment of the pitched battle between the Raptors and the Cavaliers. The fouls were even, both teams shot 24 free-throws, and the turnovers were close. If I was a more objective watcher, I’m sure I’d have seen that the calls all evened out in the end.