But the zebras certainly didn’t make life easy on the Sixers, despite the game being played at home.
Sixers fans are still livid that Marcus Smart has been able to wreak so much havoc on an otherwise exhilarating series with Mr. Hustle Award’s dangerous closeouts, reckless knee dives, and shameless, masterclass flopping.
James Harden nearly injured his ankle on a dangerous closeout by Marcus Smart— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) May 1, 2023
No foul was called on this play.pic.twitter.com/gAv6AmJN2L
Marcus Smart diving straight into the knee of PJ Tucker.— Barstool Philly (@BarstoolPhilly) May 4, 2023
Wouldn't expect anything different from himpic.twitter.com/wn1CYpQ17j
I hate when referees blow the whistle just because a player falls. Why reward Marcus Smart for that flop?— Kevin O'Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) May 7, 2023
But one play in particular would have kept Sixers fans up for an infinite number of sleepless nights had James Harden not one-upped Tatum moments later with a dagger (eventually game-winning) triple of his own.
This non-call on Tatum, who appears to gain separation from Tyrese Maxey with his off arm, was the one in question:
The NBA L2M report’s explanation for why this Tatum push off was a no-call:— Jared Weiss (@JaredWeissNBA) May 8, 2023
“Tatum (BOS) and Maxey (PHI) come together and Tatum goes to, not through, Maxey's space as he releases away from the contact at the start of the drive.”https://t.co/fVq4auxJAb pic.twitter.com/QMUXjmKWyV
HOW IN THE ACTUAL HELL IS THAT NOT A PUSHOFF ON TATUM?!?! IN WHAT WORLD?!?!?? pic.twitter.com/DRlEgIO5fO— Josh Reynolds (@JoshReynolds24) May 7, 2023
That’s the type of offensive foul call we’ve seen made much of this season, and also made in the playoffs.
Celtics fans have pointed to this play by Harden as evidence it’s not all one-sided.
HOW IN THE ACTUAL HELL WAS THIS NOT A PUSHOFF ON JAMES HARDEN pic.twitter.com/UiKiHMuAyb— OlliuG #9 (@olliuGD9) May 8, 2023
Doc Rivers no longer had a challenge by that point, 26 seconds left in OT of one wild ballgame.
But according to the NBA on Monday, it should not have been overturned anyway.
The league’s official two minute report deemed this a “correct no call” by a three-ump crew including John Goble, James Williams and Gediminas Petraitis.
Per the NBA, it was a good no call because: “Tatum (BOS) and Maxey (PHI) come together and Tatum goes to, not through, Maxey’s space as he releases away from the contact at the start of the drive.”
Maxey actually maintained his balance and still managed to close out on the made three. But having watched Smart throughout this series, one cannot help but get the sense that had Maxey performed as if he’d been struck by lightning, the Sixers would have gotten that call, whether the NBA says they deserved it or not.
That was one impressionable officiating crew on Sunday.
I find it weird (I don’t actually, but it’s really annoying) that the league doubled down on such a clear push off.
Maxey is obviously in legal guarding position when Tatum only gains separation by using his off-arm. It’s a routine call they tend to make all the time. If they don’t believe it should be a foul, then they shouldn’t have habituated us fans into expecting one there all season long.
Is it possible the NBA heard Doc Rivers’ postgame comments criticizing the no call, and decided “we hate when coaches question our officiating, so let’s stick it to him by pretending this was fine?”
Maybe just a little bit?
Doc Rivers: “Jayson Tatum’s three was awful, that that wasn’t called. Awful!” pic.twitter.com/0AU3nUNbNj— SPORTSRADIO 94WIP (@SportsRadioWIP) May 7, 2023
Many fans, of course, have been amazed that Tatum has such an apparently friendly whistle. The superstar has been able to put his hands on officials twice in a small sample of games without so much as a technical foul; all while we’ve seen other (lesser players) get T’d up for far, far less.
@NBA u suspend Dejounte Murray for touching an official and I’ve seen plenty of other players out their hands on and yell at officials and get technical fouls or ejections how come Tatum is allowed to push and yell at a ref with zero consequences pic.twitter.com/qws2R0BNk9— Devonta Smith Stan (@DevontaSzn6) April 25, 2023
Jayson Tatum pushes the ref’s arms away pic.twitter.com/oymAuQAzi6— SPORTSRADIO 94WIP (@SportsRadioWIP) May 4, 2023
There’s certain biases at play when it comes to officiating. Tatum, for example, appears to get the benefit of the doubt a lot, whereas James Harden in Philadelphia, appears to sometimes pay a penance for grifter sins of his Houston Rockets days past.
It’s laughable James Harden got ejected for this. These knucklehead refs should be ejected instead. pic.twitter.com/EkA7HKqGGm— Kevin O'Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) April 21, 2023
Just in case you’re wondering, this other controversial play was also labeled the correct call, a P.J. Tucker personal foul:
51 seconds to go, tie game. Just fall for a huge pair of free throws. I think players should probably be flopping a LOT more than they are. It just works.— DaveEarly (@DavidEarly) May 7, 2023
The NBA says “While defending the screen, Tucker (PHI) makes contact with Smart (BOS), affecting his FOM.”
In my opinion, it was great defense by Tyrese Maxey on that huge play.
The only thing I’d suggest ‘Rese do now is spend a few hours watching Smart flop. Because if that tiny amount of contact from Tucker had Smart falling for some key free throws, I cannot even imagine how Marcus would have reacted in Maxey’s shoes when Tatum pushed off.