Bucks believe something fishy is going on
Updated: Friday June 01, 2001 11:51 AM
MILWAUKEE (AP) -- Stopping just short of alleging an outright anti-Bucks conspiracy, Ray Allen said Thursday that the NBA would prefer to see the Philadelphia 76ers face the Los Angeles Lakers in the finals.
"I think there's no question about that. The league, as a marketing machine, the bottom line is about making money," Allen said. "It behooves everybody for the league to make more money, and the league knows that Philadelphia is going to make more money with L.A. than we would with L.A."
Coming off a crushing one-point Game 5 loss in which two flagrant fouls and a technical foul cost the Bucks dearly, Milwaukee now faces a must-win situation in Game 6 Friday night.
The 76ers lead the best-of-seven series 3-2, with the winner moving on to face the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals beginning next Wednesday.
The Bucks have complained about the officiating since Game 4, when they felt Glenn Robinson was fouled on a crucial possession late in the fourth quarter that turned into a breakaway layup for the 76ers.
In Game 5, Sam Cassell's technical foul and flagrant fouls on Robinson and Tim Thomas resulted in a five-point possession and two four-point possessions for Philadelphia, and the Bucks admitted that those three mistakes cost them the game.
But aside from what they felt was the questionable nature of those calls, the Bucks also had a problem with several other whistles - touch fouls on Cassell and Ervin Johnson early in the game and a moving screen call on Jason Caffey late in the fourth quarter.
Cassell's complaining began in the first quarter when he pump-faked Allen Iverson off his feet and Iverson whacked him hard on the arm. No foul was called, even though the play happened directly in front of referee Ronnie Nunn.
"Nine times out of 10 when you have a referee you know there's no biases," Allen said. "But in the back of everybody's minds it's like Philadelphia and the MVP needs to play in the finals.
"I used to always think the series were fixed when I was in high school, then when I got to the NBA I said there's no way they could be fixed. But even last year against Indiana in Game 5 (of Milwaukee's first-round series) it seemed like everything went against us," Allen said.
The NBA assigns its veteran referees to work playoff games based upon merit. Different teams have complained throughout the years that superstars receive preferential treatment from the officials, and the Bucks are merely the latest upstarts to learn that playoff games at the end of May are often called differently than regular-season games.
Complaining about specific calls is one thing; alleging a conspiracy is another. And though nobody on the Bucks came right out and said it, all the questions about a conspiracy theory found a welcoming audience.
Allen said members of his family had told him that they were sitting across from NBA commissioner David Stern on Sunday and noticed him stand up to watch a replay after it appeared Allen got away with committing a foul against Iverson that wasn't called.
"He jumped up real mad like he was cheering for Philly," Allen said.
Bucks coach George Karl said conspiracy theories were "summer talk," although he claimed three other NBA coaches had called him after Game 5 to raise that very issue.
The NBA has always laughed off the charge, but conspiracy theorists often point to Game 7 of the 1993 Western Conference finals in making their case -- saying Phoenix got an inordinate number of calls against Seattle because the league wanted to see a Suns-Chicago Bulls final.
"Here was the scenario: A Barkley-Jordan final, and Barkley did a commercial for NBC three weeks before the finals -- and he told me about it. And then they shoot 67 free throws in the final game," said Karl, who coached the SuperSonics in that game.
There were 100 foul shots taken in that game, 64 by the Suns. Seattle was called for 38 personal fouls and had three players disqualified; Phoenix was whistled for 27 fouls and had no one foul out.
"So there's a little paranoia there, but tomorrow night that means nothing," Karl said. "The board room is behind closed doors in New York City, so no one's ever going to know."
NBA spokesman Brian McIntyre said the league had no comment on the Bucks remarks. Supervisor of officials Ed Rush did not return a phone call to his Phoenix office.
In the history of the NBA playoffs, teams that have taken a 3-2 lead in Game 5 have gone on to win the series 83 percent of the time.
One of the exceptions was this year's Bucks, who dropped three straight games to the Charlotte Hornets in the second round before coming back and winning Games 6 and 7.
The Bucks continue to defiantly insist they are the better team, and they believe they will win Games 6 and 7 if they continue to hold Iverson in check.
Iverson has shot just 33-for-120 (27 percent) from the field during the series as the Bucks have hugely overplayed him to his right, forcing Iverson to go to his left.
"In the Toronto series everybody said you had to double-team him, but have you seen him go left and score?" Allen asked. "That's all he wants to do is go right, and if he goes left he's going to jump back to the right.
"So he can't score going to his left unless he passes the ball, but if he goes right he's the biggest scoring threat in the world."
Only Game 6 will tell if that strategy will continue to work -- and whether people will continue to believe that an anti-Bucks conspiracy exists.
"I'm not alleging a conspiracy, I'm not getting caught up in anything that I think the league has going on or what they might want," Allen said. "I'm just saying if we control what we can control, we'll be in L.A. playing the Lakers.
"If we play like we're capable of playing and not let the referees have a hand in the outcome of the game, then we'll have nothing to worry about."