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The Final Four…and the Zebras.

“All four playoff semifinalists are flawed in some obvious and fundamental way. The Lakers get pushed around. The Cavaliers desperately need one more skilled helper for LeBron James. The Nuggets come to play far too often without their thinking caps. And Orlando violates one of basketball’s Ten Commandments: Thou shalt not live by the jump shot.” Michael Wilbon assesses the NBA’s Final Four. (FWIW, I got the four teams correct, but the series so far quite wrong. Neither Cleveland nor LA is winning in five.)

Also, I’ve seen pretty much every playoff game over the past few weeks, and the critics are right: the officiating is terrible this year. The whistles are wildly inconsistent, frequently game-changing, and all too often are stopping interesting games dead in the fourth quarter. I’m rooting for King James, and I hope Cleveland pushes Orlando to seven just for the sheer interest of it, but the end of regulation in Game 4 — when the Cavs got a bailout superstar call for Lebron as he drove out-of-control to the hoop, followed by an exceedingly helpful no-call as Anderson Varajao put the hack on Howard in the final seconds — seemed as blatant a fix as anything I’ve ever seen in the NBA. (Thankfully, Orlando pulled the game out in OT regardless.) Right the ship, Commissioner.

Update: “The NBA’s failure to develop a new generation of decent referees might be its single biggest misfire of the past 20 years.” By way of Twitter, ESPN’s Bill “Sportsguy” Simmons just posted a long piece on the NBA’s referee problem. “I don’t know what the tipping point will be this time around. I just know it’s coming.

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