A few weeks ago, Wizards owner Ted Leonsis suggested that his team didn’t command the respect of officials because it was still young and inexperienced. The argument wasn’t particularly solid, since his complaint came after the Wizards faced Derrick Rose and Dwight Howard, two all-stars who live on the free throw line, in consecutive games.
But during their 108-89 victory on Wednesday against the New Jersey Nets at Prudential Center, the Wizards actually found themselves in the opposite position in which their opponents felt they benefited from too many favorable calls.
Was it the Nene effect, with him providing the Wizards with a veteran physical presence who commands respect from referees? Was it a fluke? Or a poor excuse from a foundering team? Whatever it was, the Wizards were certainly aided by a third-quarter meltdown in which all-star point guard Deron Williams and Nets Coach Avery Johnson were both ejected, allowing them to pad the lead without attempting a shot.
“I mean, it hurt them, it definitely hurt them, because they were giving us free points and they lost one of their best players,” said Jordan Crawford, who got to add four free throws to his game-high 23 points.
The Nets’ complaints began near the end of the first half, when the Wizards appeared to have two eight-second violations ignored by the referees. Johnson took exception to the second non-call and cursed referee Leon Wood, getting into a heated exchange that failed to yield any punishment.
But with 5 minutes, 18 seconds left in the third quarter, Williams lost his cool when he drove inside, shot an air ball and was looking for a foul. Upset over the non-call, Williams confronted referee Josh Tiven during a timeout. Tiven assessed Williams with a technical foul, but he wasn’t finished.
After walking to his bench, Williams turned around and walked back onto the floor to complain some more and received another technical foul, which meant an automatic ejection.
Crawford made both free throws, but before the Nets could inbound the ball, Johnson decided to also complain to the officials and was also ejected after collecting two technical fouls. Crawford made two more free throws. Nets reserve Gerald Green later knocked down teammate Gerald Wallace running the floor, leaving Wall free to dunk and complete a 12-0 run that gave the Wizards a 78-64 lead.
The Nets twice got back within eight, but the Wizards had enough cushion to finish out.
“It’s the cycle of the season. I think we have gotten a few more technicals than we normally do but I think it will change. The technicals didn’t decide the game,” Johnson said. “I think it started with a drive to the basket, and we had a little bit of a disagreement on two eight-second violations in the backcourt. I think it just precipitated and unfortunately both us got thrown out of the game. There was a difference in opinion and I’ll leave it at that.”
The Wizards committed more fouls (25-19) and attempted only two more free throws (29-27) than the Nets, which didn’t appear to show much bias. But when asked if the Wizards got preferential treatment during the game, Wallace said, “I don’t even want to comment on that. You guys watch the game, so I’m not saying we’re the Lakers of the San Antonio Spurs or something. You know, we played just as hard as the Wizards played.”