Reporting from Boston -- The community center gymnasium jammed with Boston Celtics fans, management, and players both past and present Wednesday turned to NBA Commissioner David Stern. They wanted a rebuttal.
One was required regarding the claim that the officiating in the NBA Finals had been lousy, a point subtly made by Boston Mayor Tom Menino, standing behind a lectern a few feet away from Stern.
Menino, there to speak about the Celtics' dedication of a new Learn & Play Center in Roxbury Crossing, had sidestepped his speech near its conclusion to discuss the Lakers' win over the Celtics Tuesday in Game 3.
He stopped short of direct complaints— "I'm not saying anything; the commissioner is right behind me," Menino said, but everyone could read between the lines, including Stern. A second later, Stern smiled and gave the mayor the hand motion signaling a technical foul.
The crowd laughed, but the moment seemed fitting. Most in Boston are upset with the officiating in this series, which has hamstrung the usually physical Celtics and kept their stars out of the game for long stretches. But the tone of officiating seems concrete, and unlikely to buckle under heavy criticism.
"If ever there's a series between the Lakers and the Celtics where there's not some chatter about officiating, that would make it unique in the history of this rivalry," Stern said. "Our referees are aided by increased video replay and technology and do their best."
There were three plays in Game 3 that were reviewed and overturned, and there were more than a few others that seemed controversial.
"My guess is, although I haven't reviewed [Tuesday's] game … there are some calls that you would think with the benefit of hindsight would have gone the other way," Stern said. "But that's always the case after every single game, likely, in the history of the NBA and probably in the history of professional sports."
Stern said the NBA would add "one or two wrinkles for next season on instant replay," but he said the league wouldn't change the system for how referees are chosen for the Finals. Currently, a season-long grading system is used to select the top 12 to work the Finals. "That's the way it's always going to be," Stern said.
Menino, who said he was a onetime high school basketball referee, said the high foul totals are ruining the flow of the games. "You just can't take control," Menino said. "You ruin it for the fans. The referees aren't supposed to be the show. The players are supposed to be the show, but sometimes the referees want to be the show. That's unfortunate."
Celtics Coach Doc Rivers said Wednesday he sent several complaints to the NBA league office after Tuesday's loss. "I don't send in a lot usually to the league," Rivers said. "I sent a lot this morning."
He seemed particularly peeved about Lakers guard Derek Fisher's defense on Ray Allen, noting that aside from "flopping, he doesn't do a lot extra" in terms of fighting through screens.
Rivers and others admitted that referees have a difficult job, and Celtics forward Glen Davis went so far as to say, "I wouldn't want to be them."
Paul Pierce said his poor offense was largely because he's missed open shots and that Ron Artest's defense is not a factor.... Allen, who missed all 13 of his shots Tuesday, took a first-quarter hit in the thigh, courtesy of Artest's knee, and said Wednesday it was still somewhat sore.
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