Top 5 most questionable referee calls in NBA Playoff history

One of the hard truths of the NBA is that bad officiating has always been part of the game.

Even with the advent of technology in the form of multiple instant replays, such mistakes seem inevitable.  Human error, after all, could never be taken out of the equation.

Plenty of inexcusable calls have been made by officials over the years, but these blunders are deemed unforgivable when the stakes are at its highest.

This year’s NBA Finals is no different, with pundits arguing that most favorable calls are going the way of the defending champions, particularly in both Games 1 and 2.

With the amount of firepower that the Golden State Warriors possess, one bad judgement call could turn a closely contested game into a blowout.

It has even gotten to a point where the league even arranged a team of referees to answer questions from fans on Twitter during Game 3.

Game officials won’t always make the correct calls and here at Fox Sports Philippines, we recall the top 5 referee missed calls in NBA playoff history.


2010 Western Conference First Round match/ Phoenix Suns vs. Portland Trailblazers

Starting off the list is probably one of the most bizarre phantom calls of all time involving Steve Nash and Marcus Camby in the 2010 Western Conference First Round match-up between the Phoenix Suns and the Portland Trailblazers.

Nash casually received an inbound pass from Grant Hill when notoriously bad referee Joey Crawford called a foul against Camby even though he appeared to be a good 15 feet away from the 2-time NBA MVP.

The deadeye free-throw shooter was obviously untouched the entire time but was still rewarded with two free foul shots.

In case you’re wondering, this is the same Joey Crawford who ejected Tim Duncan for laughing while sitting on the bench back in a 2007 regular season game.


2006 NBA Finals/ Miami Heat vs. Dallas Mavericks

Players on the receiving end of elbows usually get the call in their favor.

But that was not the case for Dirk Nowitzki in the closing seconds of Game 6 of the 2006 NBA Finals when he was called for a blocking foul in this scenario.

A closer look of the clip shows Wade clearly pushing off with his left arm, much to the dismay of the home fans inside the American Airlines Center.

The Heat, who were already up by one at the time, would eventually pull away by way of Wade’s charity stripe makes giving them their first title in franchise history.


2005 Eastern Conference Finals/ Detroit Pistons vs. Miami Heat

Joey Crawford makes a return to the list, this time by pinning the blame of his own doing to another player.

Down by three with 7 seconds left in the game, Miami’s Damon Jones raced up the court only to get tackled out of bounds by the clumsy referee.

As per NBA rules, officials are part of the playing court and if the ball accidentally touches a referee, it’s still live until it sails out of bounds.

Crawford, however, decided to punish the closest defender on the floor by assessing the foul to an unsuspecting Chauncey Billups.


2002 Western Conference Finals/ Los Angeles Lakers vs. Sacramento Kings

The Sacramento Kings of the early 2000s is arguably one of the most talented teams to never hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy.

But many believe that the Chris Webber-led squad would have definitely prevented the Los Angeles Lakers’ from securing its second three-peat if officials weren’t so terrible in the now infamous Game 6 of the 2002 Western Conference Finals.

In a close out game riddled with so many questionable calls, Mike Bibby’s supposed personal foul against Kobe Bryant in the dying seconds of the fourth quarter stood out the most.

Replays showed that Bryant rammed into Bibby causing him to fall into the ground after visibly getting caught by an elbow.

But instead of calling the obvious offensive foul, officials rewarded the former with two free throws.

The Lakers went on to force a deciding Game 7 and eventually won the series.

The entire game was officiated so badly that ex-referee Tim Donaghy accused the league of fixing games through loose officiating.


1988 NBA Finals/ Los Angeles Lakers vs. Detroit Pistons

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s sky-hook is still one of the most unstoppable shots in NBA history, but there’s no doubt that a foul shouldn’t have been called in this sequence.

Facing elimination against a gritty Detroit squad in Game 6 of the 1988 NBA Finals, the Lakers–who were down by a point 102-101 with 27 seconds left in regulation–leaned on the Hall of Famer to score.

Defended by Bill Laimbeer, who at the time was on the verge of fouling out, Abdul-Jabbar launched his patented shot and managed to draw a foul.

He drained both free throws and the Lakers would eventually win the game and garner enough momentum to win the next one en route to an NBA title.

To this day, hardcore fans are still debating whether or not Laimbeer was going straight up or made contact.

Judging by the videos, it appears that the referees also missed a traveling violation on the legend before he took the shot.

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