There are bad calls both ways in every single NBA game. But in the postseason, they're magnified, and potentially far more costly to the aggrieved side.
If you're the conspiracy theory type, there was ample material ahead of Wednesday's play-in game between the Warriors and Los Angeles Lakers to chew on. And the way the second half was officiated likely didn't provide satisfactory proof to the contrary, at least not for Golden State fans.
The Warriors only have themselves to blame for giving the game away in the third quarter. However, several -- we'll call them "curious" -- calls in the fourth didn't help on the way to a 103-100 loss.
There was the laughably obvious blocking foul on LeBron James in the fourth quarter that initially was ruled a charge on Juan Toscano-Anderson. It was a textbook block, and it cost the Warriors their challenge to overturn.
The next time down the court, same thing. What should have been a blocking foul on Wesley Matthews was deemed a charge by Andrew Wiggins. Couldn't challenge that one, though.
A few minutes later, Jordan Poole nearly threw down what easily would have been the craziest dunk of his career. He wasn't able to finish it off, though, mainly due to the fact that James crashed into him while trying to block the shot. This time the officials didn't make the wrong call; they just missed it altogether.
Those were all bang-bang plays or close, though, so perhaps the officials deserve some leniency. The several illegal screens called against Draymond Green and Kevon Looney -- of which a few were clearly flops by the Lakers -- on the other hand, were not as understandable.
But there was one sequence, in particular, that could keep the conspiracy theories flowing all week. Whatever it was, it was against the rules.
With 3:43 remaining in the fourth quarter, Poole sank a 3-pointer from the wing to put Golden State in front, 96-95. James then moved out-of-bounds on the baseline in preparation to inbound the ball. As you can see in the video, James makes contact with the ball with his right hand, forcing it into play. It went right to Wiggins, who grabbed the ball and would have had the easiest two points of his career -- if the officials hadn't blown the play dead.
By rule, the inbounder must have control of the ball before inbounding. And if you've followed the NBA this season, or any time over the last few decades, really, you know that's exactly what happened. We see that kind of inbound action in every single game. And, in general, the inbounding rules are often more like guidelines or suggestions, as players occasionally don't even step out of bounds to do so, and yet extremely rarely are called for an infraction.
But forget all that. Just watch the baseline official and James. We can safely assume both are rules expert, right?
When James first receives the ball, the official begins to start the five-second count, visually moving his left hand. Then, after James contacts the ball and it goes into play, he briefly reaches down to pick it up before realizing -- wait for it -- that it would be against the rules. So he retracts.
It's only when Wiggins is picking up the ball underneath the Lakers' basket that the official blows the whistle. But I ask, if the official started the five-second count, and James knew he couldn't touch the ball again, how can either claim he didn't have control initially? Even if you say James didn't have control by rule, he most certainly did by what's been ruled legal through years of common practice.
It's only one call, and, yes, the Lakers had some bad ones go against them, too. But that was a humongous blunder by James in a crucial moment, and the official completely bailed him out. He should have swallowed the whistle, much like the officials did on the game's final possession, when Anthony Davis clearly was grabbing and holding Steph Curry before the ball was inbounded, which should have been two free throws and possession.
Did I mention Golden State lost by three points?
Turnovers cost the Warriors a chance at victory far more than any officiating imbalance might have. And they admitted as much after the loss. They know they let a great opportunity slip through their fingers, and now the continuation of their season comes down to Friday's home game against the Memphis Grizzlies.
It does make you wonder, though, if that would be the Lakers' situation if a few particular calls had gone differently.