It is going to be awfully hard to convince anyone in Toronto that the Raptors were not given the shaft by the NBA’s referees in Sacramento. With 25.5 seconds left in the game and the score 105-99 Kings, Kyle Lowry nails a three-pointer but gets called for an offensive foul as the rookie Ben McLemore runs into his legs, then Lowry gets called for the technical running away from the scene. A play that – aside from the fact that it was a rookie running into a veteran – should been a defensive foul turned into a 5 point swing in favor of the Kings on a brutal end-of-game refereeing error.
You can watch the play for yourself here: Kyle Lowry called for offensive foul at end of Kings-Raptors
If Head Coach Dwane Casey manages to avoid the standard $25,000 fine for criticizing the referees after this game, he will have shown a remarkable level of restraint.
The short end of the stick from the referees in Sacramento wasn’t just at the end of this game. The Kings are the NBA highest fouling team averaging 23.3 personal fouls per game, but somehow in this contest, the referees decided the Kings had suddenly found discipline and were not reaching in on every single drive to the basket and jump shot – which of course wasn’t true – and only the Raptors, who hold down third spot on that list, were guilty of anything. Toronto was called for 35 personal fouls to 23 for Sacramento and the Kings got to enjoy 51 free throw attempts – more than double the Raptors 24 – as a result of some very uneven-handed refereeing.
There is no guarantee that the Raptors could have completed the comeback if Lowry had made a four-point play and closed the gap to 105-103, but the bizarre call by the referee decided this game in favor of the Kings without giving the Raptors that opportunity.
This was a home-coming of sorts for the 4 players the Raptors acquired from the Kings and the rest of the Raptors were obviously distracted by their former teammates who were now on the other side. As a result, Toronto did not start this game out well and took most of the first quarter before they started playing at even a modestly acceptable level, but they seemed to be a man short throughout the first half as the Kings lived at the free throw line and nearly all of their 67-52 point first half lead could be attributed to the extra 15 free throw attempts they were given. Toronto didn’t help themselves much either though as they uncharacteristically turned the ball over 10 times. At the half, 4 Raptors players had been saddled with 3 personal fouls each.
“I just thought our whole disposition – we are out hugging, hanging and giving high-fives and all that – this is a business,” Casey said. “I didn’t think our disposition from start to finish was in the fight mode, the hungry team mode. We haven’t done anything and I’ve been repeating this – we haven’t done anything in this league yet to come at and play in second gear until we try to turn it on.”
Toronto turned it on in the second half to eventually out rebound the Kings 44-41, score more field goals 36-32 and hold the Kings to under 40 percent shooting, but they couldn’t stop the onslaught by the Kings 6th, 7th and 8th men in the grey shirts who put them back on the free throw line 23 more times in the second half.
“When you give up 65 points on second chance points and free throws, you aren’t going to beat too many people,” Casey said. “We did everything we possibly could to do it (in the second half).”
With the Raptors down 20 to start the fourth quarter, Casey turned to the veteran Steve Novak for some offense and the three-point specialist rewarded him with 12 points in 12 minutes and Toronto closed to within 5 points with 3:15 left as the Raptors went on a 21-6 run. Toronto wasn’t able to get closer than 5 points, however, as somewhat appropriately for this strangely refereed game, the Kings made their final 9 points from the charity stripe to win 109-101.
Three Toronto Raptors players were fouled out by the uneven hand of the referees.
Lowry led the Raptors with 21 points, 7 rebounds, 8 assists, a steal and 2 blocks before fouling out of the game with his 6th personal foul. He also picked up 2 technical fouls. Chuck Hayes picked up 6 personal fouls in just 17 minutes and Greivis Vasquez had 6 fouls in 26 minutes as the grey shirts dominated this contest.
DeMar DeRozan, who was hacked more times than he could remember, had 18 points on 5-17 shooting and 7-7 from the charity stripe. He uncharacteristically picked up 4 personal fouls and a frustration technical foul. Jonas Valanciunas achieved a 12 point 11 rebound double-double, but was limited by foul trouble all game. He had 5 personal fouls.
DeMarcus Cousins led all scorers with 25 points aided by 9-14 from the free throw line. He also had 10 boards, a steal and 2 blocks. Rudy Gay had 24 points, 10 rebounds, 4 steals and 1 block on 7-17 shooting as he was gifted 10 extra points from the line. Isaiah Thomas was the biggest beneficiary of the grey shirts as they sent him to the stripe 16 times where he made up for his 4-12 shooting from the field to score 23 points.
If the referees had swallowed the whistle instead of calling an offensive foul on Lowry and let the three-point basket stand, much of the angst of an unevenly called game would have quickly dissipated. Sometimes the calls just don’t go your way. However, fouling out a veteran on a made basket off a play involving a rookie is so out of character for the NBA that it is almost unforgivable. That call is just never made – especially if it is going to impact the outcome of a game. If a ‘what were you thinking’ call isn’t made by the league office to this refereeing crew, something is seriously wrong – unless of course we are about to witness the disappearance of star calls, veteran calls, rookie calls, most favored team calls and no-calls at the end of games – and that’s just not very likely.
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Don’t Worry About The Raptors Amir Johnson
“It seems like I can’t have a couple bad games, but I’m fine, I’m fine,” Johnson said recently. “I try to give 100 percent every time I go out there – every night. There may be little nicks or little injuries on me, but I still go out there and try to give it my all, but I feel like I’m fine.”