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Gregg Popovich on NBA’s Last Two Minutes referee reports: “it’s sort of an odd practice”

Gregg Popovich

San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich argues with officials after the team’s loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 2 of a second-round NBA basketball playoff series, Monday, May 2, 2016, in San Antonio. Oklahoma City won 98-97. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)


It’s become a daily ritual during the playoffs: The day after a close game with close or controversial calls down the stretch, the NBA releases its “Last Two Minutes” report and points out the referees mistakes — and correct calls, but who wants to talk about those? For example, from Wednesday night the league said Kyle Lowry should not have been called for the shooting foul on Dwyane Wade that was whistled with 1:54 left.

No series has seen more of these calls than the Thunder and Spurs. First, there was the whistle-free 13 seconds of rugby at the end of Game 2. Then there were two missed calls that went against the Spurs at the end of Game 5.

But the reports themselves have led to controversy: If the league is not changing the outcomes of games based on the reports (and they are not, the reports are simply informational), why undercut the referees by making their most critical mistakes public?

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich isn’t sure either, as reported by ESPN’s Michael C. Wright.

“You’d have to ask (the league) exactly why they do it. It doesn’t change anything. For the people involved, it’s very frustrating because there’s nothing you can do about it. So it’s sort of an odd practice in that sense, but I think they just want to have transparency. So from their perspective it’s a good thing so that people know they can admit errors, that’s always a good thing, and people won’t just guess about what’s going on. So from their perspective it’s a good thing and that’s hard to argue with. But it is frustrating when things happen like what happened in game two and the last game at the end. But again, officials aren’t doing that on purpose, They’re going to miss things, it’s a tough deal. I’m absolutely frustrated and angry that the calls weren’t made. But it happens to everybody along the way. I’ve been in the business long enough, you end up on both sides of it, for sure. So you let it go so you can play the next game.”

The NBA is in a Catch-22 here.

Since before the reports were released and to this day there is a healthy NBA referee conspiracy theory alive and well on Twitter. Fans — particularly of losing teams — are convinced of a grand plan to keep their team out of the next round because the NBA wants the bigger market/bigger star/whatever for television ratings. Even though if that were the case the Knicks, Bull, and Lakers would never be bad. But whatever, I’m not here to argue with the tinfoil hat crowd, because there is no logical debate with them.

The point is, new Commissioner Adam Silver tries to combat that perception by making these reports (which have been around for years) public. Silver is a modern-style CEO and a believer in transparency. But the criticism that this just undercuts the referees and makes people more frustrated with officials is a valid one.

There is no good answer with the reports.

Would it be nice if the referees got more calls correct? Of course. But that’s part of the human element of sport, and we don’t want that completely out of the game either. So we live with it — and argue about it, but ultimately live with it.