This could have been a good basketball game. For three quarters, it mostly was.
In the end, though, it wasn’t. This is a salty one because from the time the Rockets took a late lead at 3:29 remaining in the 4th quarter San Antonio scored 13pts. Two points came from field goals. The other 11pts were free throws. Four three throws were donated by the Rockets to stop the clock. So that is nine points from free throws with the game in balance, two points from actual made baskets. The eventual margin was five points.
The free throw margin, between two teams that play very similarly, was 36-25 in favor of San Antonio. The way defense was played didn’t appear terribly different, no one team seemed not to be in control, on undisciplined. It’s easy to say that, but it wasn’t apparent.
So, yes, this is exasperating. The players weren’t truly allowed to decide the contest, and San Antonio shrewdly took advantage of it. This game, looking at every other stat, from rebounds, to attempts, to shooting percentages, was basically a dead heat.
Of course, the Rockets could have played better. They could have shot better. They could have made more FTs. Victor Oladipo could be less of a trash barrel fire on offense.
That’s not the point. The Rockets had overcome their problems, and taken a lead, anyway. Then the agency of both teams to decide the outcome was effectively removed. Agency shouldn’t be removed.
Until the final three minutes, the game had been an exciting affair. It should have been allowed to continue in that way.
Instead San Antonio perfectly executed a free throw assault on the Rockets. They made seven FTs, and one shot, one actual field goal, in roughly two minutes, while the game was in question, and that was the margin. That does not, again, include four FTs from intentional fouls.
Hyperbole? Let’s look. (Again, we’ll discount intentional fouls.)
At 4:37 Eric Gordon hits a three point shot to bring the score to 97-98.
At 4:13 Eric Gordon shoots two FTs, which really weren’t such a gift, as David Nwaba had already put back an offensive rebound for a score when the whistle for the foul on Gordon blew. Late whistles were quite common all night.
Gordon makes 1 of 2 free throws- the game is tied 98-98.
At 3:29 remaining John Wall makes a layup to give the Rockets the lead.
San Antonio would free throw their way to victory from this point.
At 3:01 Victor Oladipo is call for a foul because, once again, the balletic Jakob Poeltl tripped over his own feet and fell to the ground.
Poeltl did this earlier, fell down, as three players went for a rebound, and he also shot FTs. In this case, unlike his early FT attempts, a Rocket actually was involved. Patty Mills shoved Oladipo into Poeltl, who fell down. (The Spurs are great at falling down. Full credit to them. They’re excellent at it. They probably have a dedicated Falling Down Coach. That’s how serious and professional they are.) He somehow makes both FT.
In this game I don’t know how many Spurs fell down without a whistle being blown, but it can’t have been many. That’s not exactly their fault, but it’s not exactly NOT their fault, either.
The Spurs attempted 87 shots,and the Rockets were called for 25 personal fouls (if this isn’t a thing, it is tonight), for 29% of all Spurs attempts (minus a few offensive fouls) resulting either another try on a reset, or some of their 36 FTs (4 were donated to stop the clock).
The Rockets (a team that drives the rim constantly) saw 20% of their attempts result in a foul call of some sort.
At 2:42 DeMar DeRozan senses DeMarcus Cousins near him on an inbounds and falls
down with little, or possibly no, contact. He makes two FTs as the Rockets are in the penalty.
DeRozan would go on to add another five points for the Spurs, putting the game out of reach. Both times would be off ISO plays, and one was a true DeRozan special, where he got House into the air, made the shot and FT. That was a good, smart, basketball play. But it was effectively almost over at that point anyway.
When one team just has to make the easiest shot in basketball, and the other has to make actual shots, it’s tough to win a close game.
Before the various types out there get on with “Should have played better. Should have overcome it. Whining about the refs is weak. Etc. Etc. Cliche. Cliche. Another cliche. Another Internet Tough Guy Cliche.” Don’t. Please don’t.
I’ve written at this point literally hundreds, maybe over a thousand, game recaps. I can recall three, perhaps four, in too many years of this, that I’ve written like this one. This one isn’t really in the Scott Foster league (where the Rockets somehow accrued the majority of their playoff and (maybe?) regular season, losses, with him reffing).
I’ve heard it all before. I write almost no recaps like this. Some grousing, but not this.
Ask yourself how much of your defending of something that actually did in fact happen, is really a way of self-soothing, or cutting off discussion, rather than challenging something you love, and facing certain problems associated with it? That it ruins the illusion if we acknowledge that sometimes external actors wrongly change or influence the outcome.
It’s really easier to blame team shortcomings. There’s a great deal of truth to that, but it’s not all of the truth.
This is what I saw. I don’t believe the events were described inaccurately.
This should have been a close game, and if San Antonio made field goals to win it? Them’s the breaks. Tip of the cap to them. They’d lead all game, it wouldn’t have surprised me if that happened. This would be a different write up.
But that’s not what did happen. What happened was worse.
The agency of both teams was removed at the end of tonight’s game. No one who loves good basketball won tonight.
Tonight’s Big Winner?
This poll is closed
Deus Ex Machina Endings
The Need For No, or Better, Oladipo
NOTE - I truly believe that if the NBA doesn’t fix officiating, their massive push for gambling, combined with this ongoing problem, or generously, perception of a problem, is going to end up with a fiasco that makes Italian soccer scandals look tame by comparison. The officiating of the game is truly the biggest threat the NBA faces.