N.B.A. refs decide to blow their whistles rather than let the Warriors blow their horns.

By Andrew J. Pridgen

Imagine for a moment that the Warriors are one of the great Jazz quartets ever assembled, it isn’t hard to do: Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker. Coltrane, Satchmo, Monk and Ella Fitzgerald. Basie, Mingus, Hancock and Brubeck. …You get the picture.

Now imagine you’re at a little Bill’s Place or Paris Blues in Harlem or some underground cellar in Berlin, fresh-pressed suit, shoes so shiny they stare right back at you, dress creased, lips puckered, a drink is placed before you, scotch, no ice, single malt.

You take a sip and its novacaine sting rushes to the edges of your toenails and back up your spine to the neo cortex as the first notes roll out of the gate like a herd of cattle, disparate and seemingly headed in different directions but suddenly they come together in a chorus of pleasing sameness.

There they run together down the valley, over the ridge, through stream and trampling fields of prairie grass. Suddenly you’re a part of the herd too, thundering along with the notes that swirl around you everything one of your senses is held captive at once. You submit, you lean back, your hand finds its way to your chest, you’re still breathing but it’s a more iambic rhythm now, your body has succumbed to it. You let go.


The band starts to play and a man in a gray shirt and black polyester wedding photographer pants with a whistle stops them.

“Sorry,” he says, “You weren’t doing it right—I don’t think.”

They start again. “Wait, stop. Sorry. Try again.”

They start again and get going, this time for thirty seconds.

“Hold on guys, I have to check and see if why I stopped it last time was accurate. Just sit there for a moment while we work this out.”

They pause.

“OK,’ he says. “I was wrong about that last one but we got it right now. Go ahead and start playing now.”

They start again.

“Oops,” he says. “We’ve got to check that one more time. If you could just put your instruments down.”

They dutifully holster their horns and remove their hans from the keys and give one another suggestive looks.

“OK, looks like we’re good. Although, Draymond, we’re watching you.”

Draymond shrugs. The rest of the assemblage shrugs. They start to play.

“OK, hold up, stop,” the man in the gray shirt now gets between the members of the band. “Draymond that definitely WAS your fault until I decide it wasn’t. Stop playing….”

…They look at one another, they look out at the audience. People are starting to leave.

“I said, stop playing.”

…The N.B.A. Finals Game 3 continued the 2017 series’ ratings bonanza even over the same match up of 2016. Wednesday’s game was up in both key ratings measures compared to the same game last year The game delivered a 13.4 metered market rating. That was up from Games 1 and 2 (12.4, 12.7) and up 14 percent from the third game between the same teams in last year’s finals (11.8).

The league wanted to keep it going. The mandate to the refs was clear. This is not conspiracy theory. This is what takes the N.B.A from greatest spectacle in professional sport to W.W.E. territory in the span of 48 minutes.

Game 4 of the 2017 N.B.A. playoffs will live in infamy—Cleveland’s 86 points in the first half alone deserves pause—much as suspending Draymond Green from Game 5 of last year’s finals still haunts the Warriors, much as game 6 of the 2002 Western Conference Finals still casts a shadow over the league today.

In that game, former N.B.A. ref Tom Donaghy, who provided detailed information on game manipulation by the league in order to try to attempt a plea bargain, claimed that directives came from the top for refs to call “bogus fouls to manipulate results,” and that refs were “discourage[d] … from calling technical fouls on star players.”

In 2007, then Commissioner David Stern referred to Donaghy as a “lone isolated criminal.” He repeatedly said Donaghy’s claims against the league were his desperate attempt to stay out of prison and/or drag as many people down with him as he could.

Still, Donaghy has never faltered and has said the N.B.A. still encourages this practice “boost ticket sales and television ratings”—more games means more ratings, more tickets and …well, more everything.

The Warriors were given four technical fouls Friday. Draymond Green was given one in the first half and one in the second which should have resulted in ejection. Then the scorer’s table, for no apparent reason, was told by the refs that first first-half technical was supposed to go to Steve Kerr, so Green stayed in the game.

The Warriors had 12 fouls called against them during the first quarter of the 137-116 loss. The Cavs, two fouls called against them, scored 49 points and visited the line 24 times.

Forty-nine points.

Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Green and Andre Iguodala each had two fouls with more than 36 minutes remaining. Does that change how that quartet performs—how they get into rhythm? Ab-so-fucking-lutely.

It was a mess. It was abhorrent. It was Cleveland’s moment to take advantage of. And they did.

For their part, the Cavaliers were opportunistic—and at times, played the most brilliant basketball of the season. LeBron James finished with a triple double, totaling 31 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists. He passed Magic Johnson for the most triple doubles in N.B.A. Finals history with nine. Along the way, he reached into his AND 1 Mixtape bag of tricks and threw one off the backboard to himself for the dunk, a move that somehow felt unseemly under the circumstances.

Kyrie Irving led all scorers with 40 points. Kevin Love added 23 points and the Cavs broke the record for the most three-pointers made in a N.B.A. Finals game.


Because their ensemble was allowed to play.

Andrew J. Pridgen helps run sister site Goner Party and is the author of the novella “Burgundy Upholstery Sky”. His first full-length novel will be released in late-2017.