It all fell apart rather quickly for the Pistons in Game 1 against the Cavaliers. For most of the game they acquitted themselves about as well as an 8-seed can hope to, sticking close to the favorites all the way into the final minutes of the fourth quarter. Then Reggie Jackson got mad.
With the Cavs up 94-92 and four minutes left to play, Kyrie Irving and LeBron James smothered Tobias Harris’s attempted layup, and a bulldozing LeBron James went right through Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s chest to draw a shooting foul on the other end. On the Pistons’ next possession, Reggie Jackson had a meltdown:
Kyrie Irving made the technical free throw, and that pretty much sealed the win for the Cavs. Out of context, it’s hard to imagine how any player, even one who plays as angry as Reggie Jackson, could let one no-call lead to a blow-up at such a crucial point in the game. But it wasn’t just that play that set Jackson off, it was a game spent getting bullied by LeBron James.
During his halftime interview, Pistons head coach Stan Van Gundy mentioned that a few of his players were angry at the referees refusing to call offensive fouls against James. Specifically, they were upset about James getting away with his patented arm sweep on drives to the basket, a move Jackson found himself victimized by.
Both Van Gundy and Jackson were complaining about the move throughout the game, but James just went on dominating and getting to whatever spot he wanted.
James, and many other players for that matter, have been getting away with that move for years, and expecting the referees to suddenly start calling it in the playoffs is a fool’s hope. That’s probably why, after seeing his star point guard lose his composure over an obviously correct call, Van Gundy backtracked from his halftime comments after the game. From ESPN:
“Look, I thought it evened out really well,” Van Gundy said. “But early on, I thought there were two pretty obvious offensive fouls down there on him. But it’s two calls in an entire game after that. Look, the refereeing had nothing to do with tonight. They did a good job. It went both ways. I thought they did a really good job. It was decided by the players on the floor, as it should be.”
When asked by reporters about trying to climb into the referee’s ear, Jackson told them he had no regrets and only wished that he had gotten the call. “I wish they had seen me get slapped on the arm. I felt it was blatantly obvious. I’ve got to let them know,” he said.
The Pistons already have enough problems trying to slow down Cleveland’s offense, and it won’t serve them well to have this series turn into a two-front war against the Cavs and the referees. Jackson and the rest of the Pistons are going to get pushed around by LeBron James, because he’s huge and strong and skilled, but there’s no sense in getting angry about it. That’s easy for me to say, of course, because I’m not the one getting treated like a toddler on national television:
Hang in there, Reggie.