After only one game of the Western Conference Semifinals, the referees have taken center stage in the Warriors vs. Rockets NBA playoffs series.
And a referee that has plenty of history with both teams will be at Oracle Arena on Tuesday night for Game 2. Scott Foster, often criticized by the Warriors and Rockets, will be joined by Ed Malloy and Eric Lewis.
Game 2 marks Foster's first Rockets game since February, in which Rockets star James Harden was highly critical of the veteran referee.
As the Rockets blew a 19-point lead to the Lakers, Foster issued 12 fouls -- personal or technical -- against Houston, according to ESPN Stats and Information. Seven fouls were called against the Rockets in the fourth quarter, and they did not shoot a free throw in the final 20 minutes of the game.
"It's personal. For sure. I don't think he should be able to even officiate our games anymore, honestly," Harden said after the loss. Last season's NBA MVP also called Foster "just rude and arrogant" after he fouled out in the loss.
Foster also refereed Games 1 and 7 of last year's Western Conference Finals -- both wins by Golden State.
As ESPN's Zach Lowe and Rachel Nichols reported Monday, the Rockets believe the referees favored the Warriors in that epic 2018 series, going so far as to audit Game 7. Houston determined there were 81 combined total calls, non-calls and/or violations that cost them nearly 19 points in that deciding game.
While Rockets fans might feel this is the NBA punishing them for being critical of the officiating in Game 1, Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix points out that referee assignments are made before a series begins.
For the referee conspiracy theorists: Referee game assignments are made before a series starts. So, no, Scott Foster was not assigned in the aftermath of the Game 1 drama.— Chris Mannix (@SIChrisMannix) April 30, 2019
Let's also not act like Foster and the Warriors are best friends, either. They too have their own storied history.
Earlier in the season, Foster ejected Warriors center DeMarcus Cousins ... from the bench, while he wasn't even active.
Boogie already getting tossed from games and he’s not even active 😂 pic.twitter.com/2jxqCF3gVu— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) October 27, 2018
Warriors guard Shaun Livingston was ejected for the first time in his NBA career nearly three years ago in the playoffs by none other than Foster.
Those are just two examples of a long-running feud between Foster and the Warriors.
But while the chatter has turned to who's blowing the whistles, our eyes must try to stay peeled to the rivalry between two Western Conference powerhouses.