For anyone questioning which team the NBA wanted to win Game 3 of the Nuggets-Mavericks, I have two words: Bennett Salvatore.
David Stern’s on court corruption consigliere did his damndest to manipulate Saturday’s action into a Mavericks win. Denver dominated the first two games of this series with their vastly superior athleticism. In an effort to negate the Nuggets’ natural advantages the NBA ordered a choppy, nearly unwatchable foul fest. 89 excruciating free throws.
Undeterred, the Nuggets emerged victorious when Carmelo Anthony’s off balance 3 pointer splashed the net with one second left.
This result went so against the NBA’s intentions that they took the rare step of publicly criticizing their own officials for not calling an intentional foul attempted by Antoine Wright on the decisive play. Nevermind that replays showed Wright as well as coaches and players on the Dallas bench with their hands in the air as Melo’s shot was released. This is the international sign for “I am not committing a foul.”
And of course we have to believe that had Carmelo’s miracle 3 not dropped, Dallas would have done the honorable thing and complained to the refs that they were attempting to foul. Mark Cuban would have requested that Denver get the ball out of bounds to attempt a second final shot. Fair’s fair.
Note to Antoine Wright: In the waning seconds of a playoff game if you are trying to foul someone, you are best advised to foul the ever loving shit out of them. Don’t even give the refs the option of swallowing their whistles. Make the Sam Cassell play and “put him in the fifth row with the popcorn guy“.
Wright didn’t. Afterwards Dirk meekly airballed a rushed 3 at the buzzer, and Dallas broke down into complete chaos. Josh Howard was screaming at the officials, oblivious to the irony. Mark Cuban got into a yelling match with Kenyon Martin’s mother who was sitting courtside. Oh yes, that happened.
What made this Denver win so significant was that they proved themselves able to resist the NBA’s Kobe-Lebron teleology. The NBA pulled out the stops to extend their series with the Mavs, and the Nuggets denied the league. This was a statement of defiance/potency.
Nuggets-Lakers will still feature an NBA approved predetermined favorite in LA, but these refreshing Nuggets seem to have other ideas. What’s more, Denver is showing signs that they have the ability to overcome.