At the risk of sounding like a Suns or Lakers fan, this series will always have an asterisk and be known as the series won by the refs. Does anyone remember the days when we didn't know the names of referees, and they were in the back ground, hardly even noticed. In this series, Joey Crawford's name was mentioned as much as Phil Jackson's. The rest of the series was called as bad as game 4 was, with blatant no calls, and blatant bad calls.
With decent referee's, the series would have gone back to San Antonio 1-1, and went back to LA with the Spurs up 3-1. Don't think so?
In game one, with the Spurs up by 20, the refs began calling touch fouls, taking the Spurs out of their rhythm and giving the Lakers the chance to get into rhythm. The Spurs could not get back into rhythm, and they lost. The Spurs would be up 1-0, but instead, Refs 1, Spurs 0
In game two, the Spurs were just worn out and looked like it. No excuses, it happens, and the younger rested team won. Refs 2, Spurs 0.
In game three, the Lakers got a taste of bad refs, when Spurs friendly refs called the game their way. Did you hear the amount of whining Stone Master Phil did, even before they got off the court? Refs 2, Spurs 1
Now the infamous game four, the Crawford game. The beginning story is how the Crawfish threw out Duncan for laughing at his inability to call a fair game. Once Marv Albert got his head out of Phil Jackson's butt, both announcers made the comment that Crawfish claimed it was a non story, old news, and would not affect the game call at all. Did I mention Crawfish lost a lot money, because he was suspended from the playoffs?
Now, with that being said, on to the game. The Spurs were called for two step traveling, touch fouls, and pushing. They couldn't get to the basket without being called, which meant an outrageous amount of second and third shots for the Lakers. On the other end, Duncan and Parker were being beaten to within a few inches of their lives. They were pushed, hacked, and molested... no calls. We get into the final two minutes, and the Lakers Ramennoodlesky shoots a 3 pointer, and Udoku touches his hand after the ball left his hand by several feet. Crawford calls it, and one. Odom drives to the basket, shuffle and then 3 steps, foul called on Spurs, and Odom shoots free throws. Then Bryant drives the basket, trying to show boat and do an ESPN highlight dunk; instead he is turned away and a Spurs fast break. Another stop, and another Spurs fast break. All of a sudden, with 6 seconds left, and only 2 seconds on the shot clock, another Laker air ball, but it bounces off a Spur foot, out of bounds. Spurs make another stop, and call timeout with 2 seconds left.
Now the famous no call, which the NBA admits was wrong. A 95% free throw shooter should have been on the line shooting three free throws. Instead, the Spurs go to LA down to the refs 3-1.
In a must win game four, the Spurs again were controlling the Lakers, in spite of Ginoboli being off the mark. Again, the refs start calling little things, and again take the Spurs off their game and knock them out of rhythm. So while Sterns is going down on Phil Jackson, the Spurs go down to Sterns' refs 4-1.
My favorite call, came towards the end of the game, on a defensive rebound, with the Spurs tied. Duncan was called for pushing off, when Gulag fell to the floor. But, Duncan was three feet from him, and Parker was beside him, and nobody touched him. It was at that time, that I realized that Stern has learned his lesson, and that he wasn't going to let this series go to 7 games, he wanted it ended ASAP!
The NBA spends millions every year trying to figure out why the NFL fan base is so loyal, but the NBA fan base isn't. I realize that Sterns is not very smart, and quite a few of their players couldn't think their way out of a wet paper bag, but it is not rocket science. The American people are smart enough to realize that the NBA is only about money, and that it will do what it takes to make sure their money flows.
It is no secret the style of basketball that Pop coaches is boring, it is old school, it is controlled, it is not fun to watch. But it wins championships, consistently. The NBA and Sterns hates this style, because ratings drop, and so does revenue. The fan base in San Antonio does not riot when it wins, it parties in the street. There are no fires, no looting, nothing on the evening news.
On the other hand, Stone Master Phil coaches a flashy style of game, which is wholly dependent on a superstar scorer for it to succeed. If that superstar misfires, he loses. That is the reason you don't see Phil playing for championships every year, because he hooked his wagon to a superstar that misfires often.
The difference between the two clubs is obvious. Phil Jackson is crying about nothing calls, Popovich just smiles and says "it was a good no call, there was no foul". Bryant practically throws himself on the floor with a tantrum every time he doesn't get his way, Duncan just shakes his head.
So, Sterns will get what he wants, to revisit the years of Showtime, when LA and Boston played the championship game every year, and ratings were through the roof. He'll have his biggest market back in the news, and it will be on the court, instead of in court. He'll get his flashy basketball, and sell a ton of jerseys, and make a ton of money. Sterns and his cronies will think their as good as the NFL, but the fans will forget their existence until next year. So they will start the season earlier, drag it on later, and make more money. But don't be surprised if Sterns throws another referee under the bus when the feds come back around investigating illegal gambling, when I am positive that it is all Sterns and his addiction to the all mighty dollar.