Kendrick Perkins is still one technical foul away from a one-game suspension in the NBA Finals. And a suspension could be a definite possibility considering that the officiating in the Finals has been pretty "tight" (read: bad), and that it's starting to get noticed.
The two teams already have awarded 134 free throws in the first two games of the series. Ray Allen had five fouls in Game 1 and was limited to just 27 minutes because of what Los Angeles Times columnist Mark Heisler called "ticky-tack fouls he hadn't seen since UConn."
Is it a matter of concern? Considering that players can be ejected for their fouls, it definitely puts pressure on referees and players that some would argue is unnecessary.
"These games are particularly intense,” NBA commissioner David Stern said in an interview on WEEI's David and Callahan show on Tuesday. "The teams have enough time to figure out what they’re going to do to the other. They test the officials. They test them. They push and push and push. And if the officials don’t step up, then you’re going to have chaos and a game decided on [something] other than its merits. I recognized the risk that you are going to have a lot fouls called as well. But we’ve got very large bodies in small places, and it’s our job, our duty to protect these players."
Stern definitely wants to avoid another Auburn Hills melee, but in an effort to protect players, the outcome may be cheapened inadvertently.
"Welcome to the Matchup Everyone Wanted to See, two games of shooting 134 free throws and getting each other in foul trouble?" Heisler wrote Tuesday. "This is not a fluke, and it's not a critique of the referees. It's a critique of the league that has changed the way the officials call games in its quest for more and better oversight."
But how much control should referees have? The officiating crew for Game 3 will be Dan Crawford, Bill Kennedy and Bennett Salvatore — the latter of which has already been criticized before. Lakers coach Phil Jackson was not happy with his calls in an April loss to the Spurs that included a technical foul on Ron Artest.
"I think that as long as there are human beings officiating games, you’re going to have a certain amount of missed [calls] every game that can only be made by going back and using instant replay," Stern said on WEEI. "And balancing the desire to get it perfect with the need to have a game that is played in less than four hours is what keeps me up at night. That’s a tough one."
No one is ready to claim that the officiating will prevent the best team from winning, but it is becoming harder to ignore that it is affecting how both teams play.