NBA conspiracy theorists must reckon with the fact that the Los Angeles Lakers, the biggest ratings draw in the league, received some of the worst officiating of the playoffs tonight in San Antonio. No contact with Spurs players was too minor for the officials to blow the whistle. The first half was particularly egregious: Lamar Odom and Derek Fisher were forced to sit out with foul trouble, and what should have been a double digit halftime lead was only six points.
But stop right there, because on the last play of the game Fisher clearly fouled Brent Barry and the refs didn't make the call. So, let the conspiracy theories commence. Still, on balance, the Spurs got the vast majority of breaks tonight. And Barry should have taken Charles Barkley's advice and jumped into Fisher directly, rather than trying to get off a clean shot. If he'd done so, he surely would have gotten three free throws.
As for the Lakers, they now go up 3-1 and continue what has been a remarkable playoff run. I was skeptical a few nights ago when the TNT crew speculated that this Lakers team might be as good as the Lakers championship teams from the early part of the decade. But now, on the heels of very impressive series' wins over Utah and Denver, they are a win away from vanquishing the mighty Spurs in five games. (Remember, too, that they have been playing in arguably the best conference in NBA history).