The Rockets blew a 26-point lead against the Celtics and officially lost the season series, but all James Harden wanted to talk about was the officiating.
Harden felt like the Celtics were able to get away with more than usual because there were only two officials working Thursday night’s game. Typically there are three officials at each game, but Mark Lindsay sat out last night with a bad back, leaving Tony Brothers and Gediminas Petraitis to officiate.
Harden doesn’t know how the NBA felt that was acceptable:
Games can have alternate officials, but no game in the league had one
The league is allowed to assign alternate officials, but there is no specific rule or policy in the rulebook stating it has to.
We’ve seen two officials officiate entire games before. It even happened to the Rockets earlier this season. However, the official was injured in the middle of the game. Alternates are typically used in the postseason when there are less games on a nightly basis. There were no alternate officials assigned to any games on Thursday night.
It’s reasonable to think that two officials would miss calls that three wouldn’t. The rotations on the floor were different from end to end, and that’s another set of eyes missing — it’s a big deal.
Harden was right. Officiating didn’t decide the game, but it mattered
All of these things are true: The Rockets blew a 26-point lead, Harden took a silly deep three looking for a two-for-one, and P.J. Tucker still missed a free throw that could’ve iced the game. But the officiating was awful on Thursday night.
The Celtics were a more physical team in the second half and were able to press the ball a lot better because of it. There were plenty of calls that weren’t made on both sides that probably would’ve been with three officials.
Did their ball pressure work because of an extra bump here and a jersey tug there? Maybe. Maybe not. But the point is that having a third official ensures that there’s less of a chance there will be missed calls.
Officials are able to make calls on any area of the floor, but it’s difficult to keep eyes on every single thing happening from the front of the play and behind the play. An extra set of eyes is needed for everything in between, and this game didn’t have that.
Would that change Harden’s offensive foul calls? We don’t know. Brothers was literally right there when he made the call:
Maybe it helps if Brothers can keep his eye on the ball and count while another official watches Harden. But it may not have. But Harden’s point is that only having two officials completely changed the dynamic of the game, and he’s right.
This isn’t a great look for the league. We rarely see this, so it probably isn’t a big deal. But maybe it’s time to keep an alternate around just in case.