Officiating becomes focus of Warriors-Rockets Game 1

Before Golden State’s group film session, Stephen Curry made a point Monday morning of studying on his own all 16 3-pointers James Harden attempted in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals.

He wants to be better prepared to defend the Houston star who has such a knack of drawing his man in to generate contact as he jumps forward to release the ball from long range.

Who knew a debate about landing space would be all the talk going into Game 2 on Tuesday night?

“It sucks that that is the narrative coming out of it, because we literally could exhaust our energy on that as well. So what are you going to do about it?” Curry said. “Hopefully, Game 2, it’s about the game and how we play and making shots and the energy and intensity that we need to play with, knowing what’s at stake, and that becomes the conversation for sure.”

A day after the Houston Rockets complained about the officiating following a 104-100 loss in the opener of the best-of-seven series, the NBA’s Last-Two Minute Report confirmed a no-call when Draymond Green defended Harden’s 3-point try with 10.1 seconds left that could have tied the game.

The NBA said, “Green jumps in front of Harden and would have missed him if Harden hadn’t extended his legs.” The league said there were three missed calls total in the final two minutes on a day the officiating crew took constant criticism at Oracle Arena.

Also Monday, the NBA said Houston’s Chris Paul was ejected with 4.4 seconds left “for aggressively confronting and recklessly making contact with a game official,” Josh Tiven. Paul was later fined $35,000.

Curry said the Warriors must understand the “tendencies” of a shooter like Harden to avoid putting themselves in a position where it’s a tough call for the referee on whether the Warriors have encroached on someone’s landing space.

Harden referenced a play two years ago during which Kawhi Leonard was lost for the season with a left ankle injury in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals against the Warriors. Leonard came down on the foot of then-Golden State center Zaza Pachulia.

“That can change the entire series,” Harden said after Sunday’s game. “Just call the game the way it’s supposed to be called and we’ll live with the results. It’s plain and simple.”

Curry had five fouls and the report showed there were two incorrect calls where he fouled, one against Harden and the other against Eric Gordon.

“I got five of ’em yesterday so I got my fair share. I’m good,” Curry said. “It’s the same conversation with every NBA game that happens regular season or not, you can literally go possession by possession and say what was supposed to be a foul, what was not. And both teams on most nights are going to have grievances on how things are called, but at the end of the day basketball decides the game.”

The Warriors are surprised the Rockets have made their grievances quite so public, with coach Steve Kerr saying it’s unfortunate this became the focus in a series between the two powerhouses of the Western Conference.

“I thought we were going to talk about the game,” joked Kerr, who pretended to flop Monday on San Francisco Chronicle columnist Ann Killion to make his point.

“Watching the tape, both teams just got after it and competed. But we just watched the tape upstairs. You don’t think there were 10 calls that we thought we got fouled? This is how it goes. And every coach in the league will tell you the same thing: You watch the tape and you go, ‘Man, that’s a foul, that’s a foul.’ It’s the nature of the game. It’s very, very difficult to officiate an NBA game. There’s all kinds of gray area, and in the modern game a lot of players have gotten really good at deception, creating contact. I don’t remember people falling down on 3-point shots all the time when I played.”

Houston coach Mike D’Antoni said the officials came to talk to him during halftime about missed foul calls on the Warriors closing out on the Rockets’ 3-point shooters.

“I’m going to try to be a nice guy because I really don’t want to give the charity to them, I’d rather have my charity have the money,” D’Antoni said. “So I mean the response was they came in halftime and said they missed them. That’s what they told me. They missed four of them. That’s 12 foul shots. So be it. They’re trying to do the best they can do.”

Kerr, who will urge his players to curb their complaining with technicals an issue, noted that traditionally the NBA has favored the offensive player.

Going forward in what could be a long series — the rivals are meeting for a fourth time in the past five postseasons after a seven-game 2018 Western Conference finals — Kerr hopes the basketball takes center stage. He doesn’t expect any backlash from Game 1 frustrations.

He also noted Harden makes it especially challenging as “the best step-back 3-point shooter ever.”

“Referees do their job. People lobby the league all the time,” Kerr said. “This was a very public way of doing it. … It’s rarely done this publicly.”


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