Lakers Cry Foul Over Whistle Disparity

BOSTON -- There are two game stories I hate to write: the almost-comeback and anything to do with the officiating. Game 2 of the NBA Finals was both.

It's hard not to mention the refs when one team shoots 38 free throws and the other shoots 10, which is what happened with the Celtics and the Lakers. Lakers coach Phil Jackson was itching to talk about it, but knew it could lead only to trouble. So he came out to address the media and said he had no opening statement. Then he used the first question as an excuse to make a statement.

When asked what he was most struck by, the Lakers' fourth-quarter rally that cut a 24-point deficit down to two, or their inability to do anything in the first three quarters, he replied, "I'm more struck at the fact that Leon Powe gets more foul shots than our whole team does in 14 minutes of play. That's ridiculous."

He added: "I've never seen a game like that in all these years I've coached in the Finals. Unbelievable."

So that's a story line. So is the Lakers' 41-point fourth quarter.

The stories should be the Celtics asserting themselves and taking control of this series, the lack of production from the Lakers' bench, the way the Celtics' defense has prevented Kobe Bryant from turning the Finals into the victory lap for his MVP season.

But you'll notice a certain theme developing when you hear Lakers guard Sasha Vujacic say, "You can't do anything, because if you do anything they're going to go to the line. You have to adjust to the calls."

And Luke Walton saying, "It was a foul every single time down. We never were able to get into that flow, at that pace that we like to play at."

And even Bryant managed to sneak in a complaint.

"We've got to get timely rebounds and we have to stop them in transition knocking down those 3s and we'll be fine," he said. "A free throw or two wouldn't hurt."

Bryant was hampered by early foul trouble, the first when he tangled with Ray Allen as Allen was coming off a screen away from the ball, the second when he elbowed Allen while posting him up, causing an exasperated Allen to look at official Bob Delaney, who finally blew his whistle.

Every little reach and touch by the Lakers seemed to draw a call. Whatever happened to letting 'em play in the playoffs?

It doesn't necessarily need to be as rough-and-tumble as the Kevin McHale clothesline in '84. That went unpunished beyond an ordinary foul call. If it occurred in this version of the NBA, "I think there might have been some games lost," NBA commissioner David Stern said Sunday night.

But it's always better when the officials recede to the background, as was the case in Game 1.

Not even the extended make-up calls throughout the second half evened the balance in the Lakers' minds. There was an unnecessary foul on Ray Allen, a questionable offensive foul on Rajon Rondo and Lamar Odom rode P.J. Brown out of bounds on a rebound attempt with no call.

Most blatant of all, Vladimir Radmanovic took so many steps he looked like he was training for the Boston Marathon when he went in for the breakaway dunk that cut the Celtics' lead to four.

The Lakers had their breaks, too, and couldn't capitalize.

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