The tensions between players and referees have been well-documented this season, with superstars Lebron James and Anthony Davis both receiving their first career ejections. On Monday alone, 21 technical fouls and five ejections were administered, leading to many players voicing their displeasure. The most outspoken among them have been Carmelo Anthony and Draymond Green, with Green even suggesting the NBA bring in a “whole new crop” to replace the current refs.
Although some player-punishments have been well-deserved, here's a look at the biggest mistakes and non-calls made by the refs this season.
5. Giannis Antetokounmpo Stepping Out Of Bounds
Giannis Antetokounmposcored the game-winning basket against the Oklahoma City Thunder on December 29, leading the Milwaukee Bucks to a 97-95 win. However, the final play was mired in controversy as his left foot stepped out of bounds on the game-winning drive.
Had the call been made, the Thunder would have gained possession and been able to win the game. Since no call was made, the play was unreviewable. What made matters worse was the fact that a referee was feet away from Giannis as he stepped out of bounds.
4. Missed Calls In Warriors-Cavs Christmas Day Matchup
The NBA released a “Last Two Minute Report” that revealed four missed foul calls during the waning moments of the Warriors-Cavaliers game on Christmas Day.
The final 72 seconds saw three missed fouls by reigning Finals MVP Kevin Durant (two on one drive) that would have given LeBron James four chances at the free-throw line with the Cavaliers down 95-92. The final score was 99-92, meaning the final score would definitely been different
The refs also missed a foul by LeBron, who fouled Draymond Green while both were going for a rebound with 33 seconds left.
3. Reversing Carmelo Anthony Layup And-One Into Flagrant 2 Foul
Midway through the third quarter of the Trail Blazers-Thunder game on November 5, Noah Vonleh accidentally shouldered Russell Westbrook in the face, but no whistles were blown. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the worst error made in the contest.
Later in the quarter, Carmelo Anthony converted a circus layup-and-one to narrow Portland’s lead to 57-68, leaving Jusuf Nurkic sprawled on the floor covering his face. Surprisingly, the play was reviewed and the call reversed.
The refs waived off the basket and instead assessed a flagrant foul-2 on Anthony, disqualifying him from the contest. Portland was then given two free throws and extended their lead, which helped them to a 103-99 win.
While looking at the play, it’s obvious the contact between Anthony and Nurkic was neither unnecessary(as he was met by Nurkic, who contested the shot) or excessive(as Anthony was trying to get the shot up and near the hoop). The foul shouldn’t have been reversed in the first place.
2. Shaun Livingston’s Ejection
The Golden State Warriors have been most involved in disputes with referees, with multiple of their players getting ejected. In the Warriors 123-95 victory over the Miami Heat, Shaun Livingston angrily approached referee Courtney Kirkland following contact on his missed jump shot.
Livingston was ejected from the game for bumping heads with Kirkland, and rightfully so, as players should never make purposeful contact with officials. However, upon review by the league and through replay, it’s evident the contact was more so the fault of Kirkland, who approached Livingston and sought out the contact.
Both Livingston and Kirkland were suspended.
1. D’Angelo Russell Assessed Technical For Clapping
The most recent and arguably the worst of the technical fouls issued this season, D’Angelo Russell was given a technical foul for clapping on the bench during the Brooklyn Nets 119-104 loss to the New York Knicks. Russell was inactive and in street clothes, still recovering from his knee injury.
The moment was eerily similar to the infamous moment between Tim Duncan and Joey Crawford when the latter ejected the former for laughing on the bench in a game between the San Antonio Spurs and the Dallas Mavericks.