It's Denver's Turn to Blame the Refs

Lobbying the officials in a post-game playoff press conference is somewhat of an art for NBA head coaches. If you're subtle enough, your remarks can help your team as the series goes on. If you're too direct, however, the league may slap you and your organization with some hefty fines for daring to criticize the league's referees.

After the last two games of the Western Conference Finals, it seems that both Phil Jackson and George Karl have a ways to go in terms of honing this craft.

Jackson started things after Game 4 in Denver, when a total of 84 free throws were handed out, and the home town Nuggets received 14 more of them than the Lakers did.

"Tonight we didn’t know what a foul was and what wasn’t a foul out there,” Jackson said. “Start of the ball game, we got guys knocked around going to the basket and they said they were going to let these things go. By the end of the game, little fouls were being called all over the place.”

Those remarks cost Jackson $25,000 personally, and cost the Lakers to be fined an equal amount by the league office. Karl will likely face a similarly stiff fine, considering the way he opened his post-game remarks after his Nuggets dropped Game 5.

"I thought they got the benefit of the whistle," Karl said. "Every player in my locker room is frustrated, from guards to big guys. Gasol goes after at least 20 jump shots, 20 shots to the rim and gets one foul; our big guys have 16. Nene has six fouls, three or four of them don't exist."

"In the post game we're lobbying for the league to help us with the refereeing,'' he continued. "This is too good of a series. It's too good of teams competing that we're sitting here just confused by the whistle."

Confusion is the theme here, as both coaches seemingly are looking for consistency from the officials. But Game 5 was much more evenly officiated than Game 4, so it's debatable whether Karl even has a point here.

There were only 65 total free throws on Wednesday, and the Nuggets only shot five fewer than the Lakers did. That's the definition of the officials "letting them play," and as is always the case in the NBA, the more aggressive team is the one that gets the benefit of the calls. Sometimes a coach is warranted in his complaints about the referees, but in this case, Karl's comments seem way off base.

An unidentified Nuggets' player told the Denver Post, "The Lakers paid $50,000 to win that game. They got their money's worth."

We'll see if the inevitable check that Karl will be cutting to the league office will have similarly equal value for the Nuggets in Game 6.

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