Hackett: Get ready for Game 3, Celtics vs. the Refs


There is plenty that I don’t know in life, but I’m pretty sure that over the last 40 years I’ve learned a thing or two about the NBA. The Celtics are up two-zip in their conference semifinal series versus Toronto and they have looked impressive in a variety of ways while doing so. Since Minute No. 1 of this series the Celtics have looked the part of the alpha dog, putting their opponent firmly up against the proverbial wall in both unflappable and convincing fashion. As strong as the Celtics have looked though, mark my words, the NBA isn’t going to let its defending champion fall easily.

Not in this league.

If NBA history has ever tipped its dirty little hands and it most assuredly has over many years, you’ll be chasing your beer with Maalox by the third quarter. The NBA’s annual wink-wink nod-nod officiating balancing act is supposed to be subtle, but in reality, it’s more like a mobster’s tax returns. Offensively brash and pretty blatant, but the nefarious nature of what you are seeing isn’t always easy to prove. In the NBA Playoffs, when it’s deemed that the scales need to be tipped a tad, you’ll often see the circumstantial evidence within a familiar stat line; trips to the free throw line.

My prediction is Toronto gets roughly twice as many free throws as the Celtics tonight and you will see more than a couple questionable calls from behind the 3-point line; gifting Toronto some of those coveted three shot opportunities from the stripe. That’s how it happens. A point here an extra opportunity there, a team as good as Toronto won’t need much help, but be ready, they’re getting it and It’s coming tonight.

It’s vintage NBA playoff officiating.

As soon as the balance of power could potentially shift, those questionable whistles begin to escalate and the challenger is always on the short end of the stick. It’s a little like boxing in that the challenger needs to knock the champ out to win the fight. Boxing fans know that not many split decisions go the challenger’s way, if any. That’s always the case, even if your eyeballs tell you who won the fight.

For those who are wired to question things a little more aggressively like me, then this act that the NBA has pulled too many times is probably more akin to professional wrestling. In the squared circle, a new king is crowned when the timing is right and when Vince McMahon says so. This Celtics vs. Raptors series is at least a few games away from that title belt changing hands.

It’s just the way it is.

It’s as rotten and dirty as it sounds and if you don’t believe it, I’ll happily refer you to a book that’s still available on Amazon now for just $12.69, ‘Personal Foul’; the firsthand account of shamed former NBA referee Tim Donaghy where refereeing bias is among the many egregious behaviors chronicled in the book.

In fairness, the NBA has cleaned up its act significantly and profoundly since those dark days of 2010 when that book was released, but the seemingly ongoing officiating bias that rears its ugly head on occasion is still a little too frequent for me. As in, it should never happen.

Case in point, if Daniel Theis isn’t in foul trouble by midway into the second quarter tonight I’ll be amazed. Heck, I’ll cluck like a chicken for a Klondike Bar if it doesn’t happen. Either way, mark my words and have the Maalox at the ready.

Its 2020 so I’ll say Celtics in five, but 10 years ago this thing would be going six or seven, not a doubt in my mind.