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Game 6 between the Kings and Lakers in 2002, however, tugged at the league's credibility. Three terrific veteran officials -- Bob Delaney, Dick Bavetta and Ted Bernhardt -- called what I still consider the single worst-officiated game in the 28 years I've been covering professional basketball. It was egregiously, embarrassingly bad for the league and for the Kings. It's the only time, I think, I've ever written an entire column about refereeing for the purpose of being critical.
But I just thought the crew simply had a bad night, even an awful night. Donaghy is alleging it was a felonious night for somebody on that crew.
Stern, doing what the guardian of a league is supposed to do, reminded reporters that Donaghy "violated probably the most sacred trust in sports" and did everything possible to attack Donaghy's credibility.
Still, even if Donaghy is absolutely the sleaze the NBA now paints him to be and even if he was the only referee acting in such a way, which the league also wants us to believe, the NBA is going to have to deal in a broader way with the perception that results are massaged . . . if not downright manipulated.
After the 38-10 foul shooting disparity in favor of the Celtics, many of us figured the Lakers would benefit from a plus-10 free throw shooting advantage in the first half.
We were wrong.
The Lakers were plus-12 for the game, 21 of 34 from the foul line. Kobe Bryant took almost as many foul shots, 18, as the entire Boston team. Some of this can be explained by the fact that teams playing at home are more comfortable, therefore more aggressive, therefore more likely to be fouled because they're going to the basket more often. But that doesn't explain 38-10. When asked specifically about the game-to-game chatter relating to officiating and the role it plays in playoff series, Stern said: "That's a separate matter. That's okay, we'll deal with that separately."
Stern and the NBA had better deal with it quickly, lest they appear completely unaware of a condition that will threaten the credibility of the league, even when Donaghy has stopped singing and his tap dancing for a lighter sentence is no longer an issue.