After last night’s 96-82 loss to the San Antonio Spurs in Game 2 of the opening round of the Western Conference Playoffs, Memphis Grizzlies coach David Fizdale had reached his breaking point.
The rookie head coach, in this age of metrics and data determining organizational decisions and directions, laced into the NBA for the lopsided officiating that even Stevie Wonder could see taking place on the court last night.
After trailing by 25 points late in the first half, the Grizzlies proceeded to make a game of it by slicing the deficit to just five late in the fourth quarter. The Spurs held on at the end and Kawhi Leonard was masterful throughout, delivering a postseason career-high of 37 points.
But it was Leonard’s work from the charity stripe, where he shot 19 free throws, that sent Fizdale over the edge.
It’s a well-known fact that when players or coaches criticize the officiating, they’ll be hit with a hefty fine from the league office. But, for real, in this instance, the NBA needs to fall back, reprimand their refs and actually cut Fizdale a check. Because he broke down the discrepancies with irrefutable facts.
And to punctuate it with his verbal jab, “They’re not gonna Rook us,” and follow that up with the classic drop-the-mic haymaker, “Take that for data!” was a postgame press conference moment that will live forever on in perpetuity.
James Ennis III, Marc Gasol, and Mike Conley were the only players to shoot free throws for Memphis last night. Leonard, by himself, took more free throws than the entire Grizzlies squad combined.
No realer words were ever spoken about some suspect NBA officiating than Fizdale’s supremely warranted diatribe.
“It’s unfortunate that I’ve got a guy like Mike Conley, who in his whole career’s got zero technical fouls,” he began. “And just cannot seem to get the proper respect from the officials that he deserves. It was a very poorly officiated basketball game. Zach Randolph, the most rugged guy in the game, had zero free throws, but somehow Kawhi Leonard had 19 free throws. First half we shot 19 shots in the paint and we had six free throws. They shot 11 times in the paint and had 23 free throws. Not a numbers guy, but that doesn’t seem to add up.
Overall, 35 times we shot the ball in the paint, we had 15 free throws for the game. They shot 18 times in the paint and had 32 free throws, Kawhi shot more free throws than our whole team. Explain it to me. We don’t get the respect that these guys deserve, because Mike Conley doesn’t go crazy, he has class, and he just plays the game, but I’m not gonna let them treat us that way. I know Pop’s got pedigree, and I’m a young rookie, but they not gonna rook us! That’s unacceptable, that was unprofessional. Our guys dug in that game and earned the right to be in that game, and they did not even give us a chance. Take that for data!”
Memphis Grizzlies (@memgrizz) April 18, 2017
And punctuating his speech by slamming his hand on the table brought his point even further home.
Things began to bubble up on the court when the refs penchant for swallowing their whistles, as far as Memphis being fouled, prompted a normally composed Vince Carter to get hit with a technical. Vince gave a slight head-bump to Kyle Anderson early in the second quarter for a shove that sent him to floor and was ignored by the officiating crew.
Throughout the entire game, the Grizzlies had to swallow missed and ignored foul calls like grandma shoveling Robitussin down your throat.
Fizdale was not wrong in asking for equal treatment. Whether you are an old-school proponent of the eye-test, or a new-school advocate of data-driven derivatives, the Grizzlies got jerked last night.
And Fizdale, league fines be damned, wasn’t having any of it.
Go watch the video tape and sift through the numbers, and I dare you to find the lie in what he said.