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Refs + Yao = unfair

March 13th, 2007
by John
Yao Ming blocks the shot of Phoenix’s Amare Stoudemire Monday night on a night where Yao made only 1-of-9 shots, scored 10 points and grabbed 8 boards.  But the officials also ripped him off in the pivotal fourth quarter, thwarting a comeback attempt that led to a big Rockets loss, 102-83.Yao Ming blocks the shot of Phoenix’s Amare Stoudemire Monday night on a night where Yao made only 1-of-9 shots, scored 10 points and grabbed 8 boards. But the officials also ripped him off in the pivotal fourth quarter, thwarting a comeback attempt that led to a big Rockets loss, 102-83. Click here for more photos from the game.

This may sound like sour grapes. Sure, the Rockets lost 102-83 against the Suns on Monday night. No surprise. They had lost 5 games in a row to the Suns (now six). The Suns are awesome. It was the second night of a back-to-back for the Rockets. But Yao was robbed by the refs in the fourth quarter when the Rockets still had a chance to come back.

The Rockets were down only 78-71 after a Shane Battier 3-pointer with 10:07 remaining. Leandro Barbosa responded with a trey to make it 81-71, and that’s when the bottom started to fall out in the most distressed series of minutes I’ve seen Yao go through.

On the following possession, Yao went up for an easy layup, and Kurt Thomas brazenly went up to block his shot with no regard to caring if he was going to be called for a foul. Thomas hit Yao on the wrist, then got ball, and the ref didn’t call a foul. Is that what this game has turned into where you can get away with hard contact if you go up against a much bigger guy? Remember earlier in the season when Nate Robinson “blocked” Yao, drew blood, and no foul was called.

Thomas’ “block” wasn’t the first time that Yao was robbed in the game. Earlier in the game, Shawn Marion also got Yao’s wrist on a shot attempt with no foul being called.

Luckily after Thomas’ “block,” the ball went out of bounds, and on the very next play, the same exact thing happened! Thomas not only hacked Yao on the wrist on a layup attempt, but he went over his back to do it! Again, the same ref called nothing and let play continue! Yao reacted by throwing his fist in disgust, and for good reason!

I wish Yao had done more than that to draw a technical to get the refs attention. It was obvious that these refs had a bias against Yao because of his size. Just because he’s bigger and layups are easier for him, they let defenders get away with murder.

A couple of plays later, the same ref called Yao for a three-second violation. It might have been legit. I don’t know. I know for sure he had one foot in the paint, and one foot out of it right before the ref blew the whistle. Not sure if that means he’s still in the paint (I think it does), but it was obvious the ref was watching Yao much more closely than other players.

Yao’s disastrous episode with the refs wasn’t over. On the next Houston possession, Yao was called for a moving screen, which was a legitimate call. But obviously it wasn’t Yao’s night.

Then two possessions later, the worst call ever came against Yao. He was called for another 3-second violation when clearly he came out of the paint with BOTH feet long before the ref blew the whistle and well within 3 seconds. What the hell is going on here?

On the next possession, Barbosa scored to make it 87-73 with 7:20 remaining in the game, and that was about the end of it as the Suns had the momentum they needed to blow the game wide open.

I can handle the Rockets losing to the Suns. I can handle Tracy McGrady having an off night and making only 8-of-28 shots for 19 points. Or even Luther Head and Rafer Alston combining for 8-of-27 shooting.

But I can’t take Yao being singled out because of his size such that other players know there’s a good chance no foul will get called when they go up to hit Yao on the wrist. The Rockets will have no chance if that continues to happen.

All I know is that Ronnie Nunn (Director of NBA Officials) better get his refs in gear on how they call games when Yao is playing, or this sport will become a farce.