Game 1 of the Western Conference playoff series between the Golden State Warriors and Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday was incredible and came down to the very last second. But Ja Morant’s missed shot at the buzzer is the only thing that might actually keep the focus on how good the game was.
Had Morant gotten that layup to go, Memphis would have won in thrilling fashion but the story of the game unfortunately would have been some terrible blown calls by the refs, especially Draymond Green’s bogus ejection in the first half. That’s not to say Memphis couldn’t have won with Green playing, but the uncertainty created by a terrible judgment call on a flagrant foul would have taken center stage.
Draymond Green was ejected for this flagrant 2 foul. pic.twitter.com/QPYnODEXt1
— ESPN (@espn) May 1, 2022
What's the difference between a Flagrant 1 and Flagrant 2?
Before we get into why this call was so egregious, let’s do a quick refresher on the difference between a Flagrant Foul 1 and 2.
Flagrant Foul Penalty 1: Unnecessary contact committed by a player against an opponent
Flagrant Foul Penalty 2: Unnecessary and excessive contact committed by a player against an opponent
The key difference here is the word “excessive,” which is obviously in the eye of the beholder — that’s what gets a player ejected. But while you could argue that any unnecessary contact is inherently excessive, you don’t see refs just tossing players anytime they commit a hard foul. It’s totally a judgement call.
The refs didn't need to elevate this
This was textbook refs unnecessarily injecting themselves into a game. Was Green’s foul worthy of a Flagrant 1? Sure. He clearly swiped down and hit Clark in the face, and then proceeded to drag him down afterwards. But to elevate the call to a Flagrant 2 was just ridiculous, especially in the playoffs when so much is at stake.
There was nothing about the swipe to the face that looked intentional, and no one was injured. Hard fouls are to be expected in the postseason. Teams don’t give up easy buckets in these games.
Draymond Green gets ejected for a grab and yank of Brandon Clarke's jersey. Warriors bench is stunned. Steph Curry to the referees: "That's f****** crazy." They thought it'd be a flagrant 1 maximum.
— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) May 1, 2022
"Are you f***ing kidding me?"
Steve Kerr to the refs when he heard Draymond was ejected
— Action Network (@ActionNetworkHQ) May 1, 2022
The Warriors entered the game as 2.5-point road favorites but were down by one point at the time Green was ejected. They gave up a 7-2 run afterwards to close the half and had to play the rest of the game without their emotional leader and best defender. This was something that had the potential to completely change the course of this series.
Draymond Green has a reputation
That fire and passion Green plays with gets away from him a lot, especially in his interactions with referees. He’s been top six in technical fouls every season since 2015, committing at least 14 each year and twice leading the league.
That reputation proceeds him in moments like this and can’t be discounted as a factor in the decision to eject him. If so, that makes the decision even more lame.
Can’t officiate the PLAYER officiate the PLAY
— Trae Young (@TheTraeYoung) May 1, 2022
Maybe Green shouldn’t get the benefit of doubt or leeway in a screaming match with refs, but this is different. This was an actual play that occurred in the flow of the game, that was reviewed and still resulted in ejection. It’s hard to believe it goes the same way with another player, but that’s not how the game should be officiated.
That wasn't the only missed call
Just when it seemed the Warriors had overcome the ejection and were wrapping up the win, the refs botched another call. After Klay Thompson missed the second of two clutch important free throws, the loose ball went out of bounds off of Memphis with six seconds left.
But the refs somehow didn’t see the play, and instead of going to replay, they ruled a jump ball.
— Bad Sports Refs (@BadSportsRefs) May 1, 2022
Memphis won the jump and had one last shot to win, which would’ve put the spotlight firmly on the bad officiating from this game. Luckily for the refs, Morant missed and the Warriors came out on top in an otherwise great game.
Steve Kerr on Klay Thompson coming up with defensive stop on final play of game after he missed two FT’s and Warriors didn’t get ball on jump that shouldn’t have happened because ball went out of bounds off Dillon Brooks. pic.twitter.com/GWjN8d5ywr
— 95.7 The Game (@957thegame) May 1, 2022
Next time, the refs need to be better or it won’t matter how good the game is because all anyone will want to talk about is how they ruined the series. And nobody wants that.