Q: I’m OK with the NBA just admitting their referees are imperfect and hoping their errors even out over a seven-game series. Punishing them probably isn’t getting the intended benefit of less mistakes. -- Todd.
A: This was in reference to the Last Two Minute report issued in the wake of the Heat’s Game 1 overtime victory over the Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals. First, to address what many have asked, the NBA doesn’t “punish” the officials for incorrect rulings, just as teams don’t “punish” players for turnovers, missed shots, defensive breakdowns. But, as with players, there are consequences. For referees, it means being judged as worthy of moving on to the next round of the playoffs, or, like players who commit errors, being moved out of the rotation. So there are consequences (sometimes more severe), as there are for players and coaches. But the galling part of Game 1 was how the Heat bench quickly called for a traveling violation on Jayson Tatum when he relocated himself several feet without a dribble in the closing seconds of the fourth quarter, with seeming little focus on the play by the official nearby. As for the Derrick Jones Jr. foul prior to the inbounds pass, what is the downside of reviewing that play? It’s not as if Marcus Smart hasn’t embellished before, or as if Derrick decided to tackle Smart for no reason. By the time you reach the conference finals, when it doubt, replay it out.
Q: Someone yesterday asked, “Can the Heat play any better than Game 1?” Um, the Heat literally played well for two out of the four quarters. Duncan Robinson had a humbling experience. Yes, Miami can play much better. Great win for half a good game. -- Marc, Arlington, Texas.
A: Actually more than half a game, since the Heat also had the decisive advantage in overtime (when calling Heat games, the late Dr. Jack Ramsay told me I should not refer to “quarters,” since if the game went overtime then there would be five or more quarters, which fails the fraction test). But it’s not only if the Heat can be better, it also was less than the best of the Celtics, who, by your math, lost three of the game’s fifths. Figure on better shooting from Kemba Walker, fewer fouls from Daniel Theis, and maybe even a guest appearance from Gordon Hayward.
Q: Hi, Ira. Will the Heat still select 20th in the NBA draft if we make it to the NBA Finals? Thanks. -- Scott, Davie.
A: Yes, unlike the NFL, the NBA does not factor playoff results into the draft process. So the Heat could wind up playing for the ultimate hardware and also have a pick in the middle third of the draft. Win-win.
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