Chris Paul was ejected last night in what could be his final game for the L.A. Clippers. Shortly thereafter Zack Randolph was tossed. The man responsible for both was human-refereeing-highlight reel Joey Crawford.
The game was undoubtedly physical—Blake Griffin and Zack Randolph were rolling around on the court like a couple of six-year-olds at recess—and some official intervention was probably necessary, but Joey Crawford stole the show as only Joey Crawford can. Was that really a technical foul on Chris Paul? Was it a second technical foul? I would answer "probably not" and "definitely not," respectively. But it's not my bald dome mugging for the cameras.
What makes it all so perfectly Crawfordian is that the game was over. Ok, sure, Chris Paul could have worked some Chris-Paul magic and led the Clippers to a stunning comeback, forcing a dramatic Game 7 in Los Angeles, but chances were slim. So ejecting the losing team's star player in the final minutes to the blood-thirsty cheers of the advancing-Memphis fans allows Crawford to bathe in the spotlight without fear of interfering with the game. He is a hero.
And then Crawford does a quick heel turn when he needlessly tosses Randolph. Randolph was already T'd up after his dust-up with Griffin so when Crawford got him again with 1:57 left, it was another perfect Crawford move. He knows that no one really cares; the game is over. Randolph is as unnecessary as his ejection at that point. Even Randolph recognizes this, so he skips off the court to the delight of the crowd.
The crowd was already whipped up from the score and the Paul ejection that this was just a lark. It was something to laugh about before celebrating in earnest and it all came courtesy of ol' Big Joe—there's no way he doesn't call himself Big Joe—Crawford tells himself. Another game, another expert performance out of Crawford: lots of sizzle, virtually no steak—just what you want out of a referee.