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Divac Pins Blame on Refs

Game 6: Center fumes after fouling out. Lakers attempt 27 free throws in fourth quarter.

June 01, 2002|STEVE SPRINGER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Vlade Divac has an innovative idea for the Western Conference finals in the future, one guaranteed to cut down on travel expenses.

"Why don't they just let us know in advance?" he said, obviously referring to the officials. "We come here. We go back to Sacramento. Back here. Just let us know."

Translation: The officials have already decided before the opening tipoff who is going to win, so why bother to travel? Why bother to play the game?

The NBA would certainly vehemently dispute the notion that the refs consciously favor the home team. But of this there can be no dispute: The home team in this series between the Lakers and Sacramento Kings has had a huge edge over the visiting team in time spent at the free-throw line.

And so it was again Friday night in Game 6. The Lakers had 40 free-throw attempts, the Kings 25. In the crucial fourth quarter, the edge was 27-9 for the Lakers. Divac fouled out with just under three minutes to play. Divac and Scot Pollard, given the task of trying to stop Laker center Shaquille O'Neal, both fouled out.

Sixteen of the last 18 Laker points came at the free-throw line.

In Game 5 at Sacramento's Arco Arena, the Kings had the edge in free-throw attempts, 33-23. Between them, Divac and Pollard had three fouls. And O'Neal fouled out.

End of discussion, as far as Divac was concerned.

He didn't want to talk about guarding O'Neal. He didn't want to talk about making adjustments for Game 7. He sat at his locker stall, arms folded and let the steam slowly come out of his ears. The only adjustment he wants is in the minds of the officials.

Pollard, presumably harboring the same feelings, disappeared before reporters could surround him.

Taking advantage of the calls against his defenders, O'Neal made 13 of 17 free-throw attempts, including his first 10.

"I knew it before the game," Divac said of the outcome. "It was my turn."

When the Kings were whistled for a three-second violation two minutes into the game, Divac said, it confirmed his worst fears.

"I know what is happening," he said.

Did he mean the officials wanted him to foul out?

"Oh no," he said, sarcasm dripping from him along with the sweat. "I just felt like being aggressive and fouling people."

Divac said he was most bitter about his sixth foul, when he grabbed Robert Horry, who was already on the floor, while fighting for the ball.

"I dive for the ball and they call that," Divac said. "Be consistent."

Did Divac protest the call?

"I said something about the first, the second, the third and the fourth," he said. "By the fifth, I quit. After the sixth, I just went to the bench."

Oh yeah, and he wasn't too crazy about Kobe Bryant's hit on Mike Bibby's nose which did not result in a foul call.

"I guess Mike likes to hit himself in the nose," Divac said.

Sacramento forward Chris Webber was also angry about the officiating, but he said talking to reporters had calmed him down.

"You guys are kind of like my psychiatrists," he said.

Sacramento guard Bobby Jackson wasn't surprised Divac fouled out.

"I kind of had it in my head before the game," he said.

And what would he have in his head for Game 7?

"You can't have nothing in your head," Jackson said. "You've just got to play the game."

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