By Brian Kalchik @RantsportsBrian on May 14, 2014
Game 5 of the 2014 Western Conference semifinals will not be remembered as either an epic Los Angeles Clippers collapse or a great Oklahoma City Thunder comeback. Instead, this game will be remembered for poor officiating at the end of the game that went against the Clippers. A controversial foul by Chris Paul on Russell Westbrook gave the Thunder the winning edge, but what other games have been the worst officiated games in NBA history?
The New York Knicks became the victim of the infamous "Bench Rule" in Game 5 of the 1997 Eastern Conference semifinals as Knicks players Patrick Ewing, John Starks, Allan Houston and Larry Johnson were all suspended for leaving the bench during a fight. Despite clearly starting the fight, the Miami Heat were the winners in all of this as they would win the series in seven games.
With the Detroit Pistons closing in on their first championship, Bill Laimbeer fouled Kareem Abdul-Jabbar with seconds remaining in Game 6 of the 1988 NBA Finals. Only, there was never a foul on the play. The Pistons would lose the series in seven games, but got their revenge on the Lakers the next year, sweeping them in four.
In the final series of the epic Pacers-Knicks rivalry in the 1990s, controversy ultimately capped it off. With seconds to go in Game 3 of the 1999 Eastern Conference Finals, Knicks forward Larry Johnson hit a 3-pointer to tie the game at 91 and was fouled. Johnson would make the free throw to give the Knicks a one-point win, but there clearly wasn't a foul. The Knicks would win the series in six and reach the NBA Finals.
With perhaps the best chance to reach the NBA Finals under Mike D'Antoni, the Phoenix Suns were winning Game 4 of the 2007 Western Conference semifinals, but Spurs forward Robert Horry took matters into his own hands. Horry basically hip-checked Steve Nash into the score table, resulting in Suns players Amar'e Stoudemire and Boris Diaw leaving the bench. Both were suspended and the Spurs would go on to win the series.
Michael Jordan's final shot as a member of the Chicago Bulls is clearly etched into all of our minds, but that moment clearly should not have happened. Jordan clearly pushed off of Bryon Russell, giving him enough space to sink the shot. The call should have been an offensive foul and the series should have been forced to a deciding seventh game.
A series of games in the 2006 NBA Finals tipped the NBA Finals in favor of the Miami Heat and away from the Dallas Mavericks. In Games 3 through 6, Miami superstar Dwyane Wade shot 97 free throws with 25 alone in Game 5. Miami won each of those four games en route to their first NBA Championship, but the Mavericks would get revenge in 2011 as they beat the Heat in the 2011 NBA Finals.
Game 6 of the 2002 Western Conference Finals is the most obvious instance where the referees poorly officiated an NBA playoff game. Former referee Tim Donaghy later admitted that the NBA fixed the outcome so the Lakers would be in the Finals instead of the Kings. Los Angeles shot 27 free throws in just the fourth quarter of that game. The Lakers would win the series in seven games, and the Kings have never recovered from that loss.
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