Not content with calling personal fouls and traveling violations, the NBA's replacement referees turned fashion police Saturday in New York, citing New York Knick forward Charles Oakley for a dress code violation.
In the latest bizarre side effect of the league's contract dispute with its locked-out union referees, the great debate at Madison Square Garden concerned Oakley's shirt.
That was the first of a slew of events involving the replacement referees that turned a game between two of the NBA's top teams into a farce--or a tragedy, from the Houston Rockets' viewpoint.
Midway through the first quarter of New York's 103-88 victory over the two-time defending champion Rockets, referee Rodney Mott assessed a delay-of-game technical foul against Oakley for standing at the foul line with his shirt allegedly not tucked in the way league rules require.
Oakley had argued that his shirt was tucked in but bagging loosely over the belt line.
"His shirt wasn't out, it was just loose," Knick Coach Don Nelson explained after the game. "Oak likes a loose shirt, and as long as the shirt wasn't out of his pants, I thought it was a mistake on the referee's part."
"That was crazy," center Patrick Ewing said. "The shirt was in. It held up the game for no reason at all."
Nelson called a 20-second timeout to calm the situation with some minor theatrics.
"I called a 20 and pretended like I was tucking the shirt in to pacify the referee. But I really didn't, because it was in."
Ewing scored 27 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and blocked four fourth-quarter shots as the Knicks won their fifth game in a row and snapped the Rockets' seven-game winning streak.
Houston forward Robert Horry was ejected early in the fourth quarter from a still-tight game for a questionable flagrant foul and Hakeem Olajuwon was ejected with 4:13 left in the game right after he shoved the ball in an official's face.
Olajuwon finished with nine points, the first time in 258 games and only the ninth time in his 12-year NBA career that he has not scored in double figures. He spent most of the game on the bench in foul trouble.
Cleveland 89, Milwaukee 87--Chris Mills sank a short bank shot over Glenn Robinson with less than a second remaining to give the Cavaliers the victory at home.
The Cavaliers won for the fourth time in five games. It was their seventh in a row over Milwaukee despite blowing a 10-point lead in the final three minutes.
Orlando 114, Washington 112--Anfernee Hardaway scored 13 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter and Dennis Scott added 29 points at Landover, Md., as the Magic held off a late Washington surge to extend their winning streak to four games.
Nick Anderson had 25 points for the Magic, whose 11-2 start matches the best in franchise history. Robert Pack scored 35 points for the Bullets, including 11 in the fourth quarter, and Juwan Howard had 27.
Miami 111, Vancouver 91--Alonzo Mourning overcame a three-of-10 first half to score a season-high 30 points as the Heat won in Miami.
The Heat went on a 30-8 spurt midway through the second half to win their first game in four tries against an expansion team.
Atlanta 114, Toronto 102--Ken Norman matched his season high of 21 points, including 13 in the third quarter, to lead the Hawks at home.
The victory snapped Atlanta's two-game losing streak and gave Lenny Wilkens, the NBA's winningest coach, his 975th victory.
Denver 94, Utah 91--Dikembe Mutombo made four consecutive free throws in the final 50 seconds, including two with nine seconds left, and Dale Ellis scored 22 points as the host Nuggets won for the third consecutive time.
Karl Malone had 28 points and 12 rebounds for the Jazz, who had beaten the Nuggets five times in a row.
Golden State 107, Philadelphia 89--Donyell Marshall scored a season-high 24 points at Philadelphia as the Warriors handed the 76ers their seventh consecutive loss.
Chris Mullin had 17 points and Rony Seikaly added 16 points and nine rebounds for Golden State, which had six players score in double figures.