NBA Playoffs: The Physicality Of The Postseason Is Becoming A Determining Factor


For better or worse, the physicality of this year’s NBA Playoffs is becoming a determining factor in how it’s played out

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Following a Game 3 loss to the Houston Rockets, an enraged Rick Carlisle took to the post game podium to defend his players. The Dallas Mavericks coach felt his team was wronged by NBA officials who refused to blow the whistle during on court sequences with increased physicality.

He was slapped with a $25,000 fine by the league for his criticisms of the referees.

But the man wasn’t wrong; that game was full of hard contact and shoving that officials allowed to go on. As a matter of fact, most of the NBA playoffs have been officiated the exact same way. In the regular season, some of the hits we’ve seen would be under review for being a flagrant and would probably result in a technical foul. Yet, in this year’s edition of the postseason those blatant fouls are being overlooked and plays are being continued.

The NBA has seemingly come into the playoffs baring an insane double standard in an effort to keep the action fast paced and constant. In the regular season it’s often the case that coaches and players come away from games complaining about the officials being very whistle-happy. Since the postseason has started, the lack of foul calls on harsh contact has been shocking.

In the very game that Carlisle was talking about, we saw Dwight Howard shove Monta Ellis into the first row of the crowd when trying to gather a loose ball; no whistle was blown and the result was a fast break bucket for the Rockets.

We also saw something similar in Game 5.

Critics have bashed Lebron James and Michael Jordan comparisons because of the rules that protect modern day players which didn’t exist in the early years of the jump-man. In many regards those critics have a very strong argument there, the way the bad-boy Pistons of that era infamously dismantled Jordan on a possession-by-possesion basis seemed barbaric. Now however, it’s as if those rules have been tossed out of the window altogether. Hits on frequent-drivers like Lebron have not only been dangerous but plentiful.

The Cavaliers’ Kevin Love has been likely taken out of the remaining playoff picture as a whole by a dislocated shoulder.

Boston’s Kelly Olynyk, who committed the hard foul on Love, was suspended for a game; a seemingly relaxed punishment for causing a player to miss what could amount to 21 games (should the Cavs advance to the finals and go to seven games each time).

What makes the matter more complex is that the retaliation foul by J.R. Smith has landed him on the pine for two games.

Physical play will forever be a part of the NBA landscape. Teams that are big-dominant like the Memphis Grizzlies and the Utah Jazz have made names for themselves in recent years by playing bully-ball against other teams in the paint. The Chicago Bulls, who the Cavs would draw in the second round assuming they advance past the Milwaukee Bucks, are a team that is big-man heavy. Guys like Pau Gasol, Joakim Noah, Nikola Mirotic, and Taj Gibson make up a front court rotation that a Love-less Cavs team will struggle to matchup with.

Above all else, the call for action here is to the NBA.

They need to address consistency in the officiating of regular season and postseason play. Rick Carlisle may have been forced into silence on the issue, but with physical play baring fruit in the form of the K-Love injury, “what if” questions will be abundant for the remainder of the postseason.

Essentially, if Cleveland gets bounced at any point, fans will point to that play in Boston as the defining moment. Physicality that has defined the early goings of this year’s playoffs will essentially be the focal point of debate until next season gets under way.

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