One of the primary drivers of home court advantage is the refs being swayed slightly by the crowd.
Yet the opposite happened in Oklahoma City last night!! I agree with you overall, but that didn't happen in OKC last night. For those that watched the end of the that game, it was blatantly clear.
It was pretty underhanded of those refs to make Westbrook, George, and Melo go 0-14 in the fourth quarter.
Fairweatherfan, I do agree with you that you can find an angle to complain about refs for every single game. I didn't seen enough of the utah game to comment on it. That being said, what happened in this pacers game is exactly what Tim Donoghy said the NBA would do (which I think was at least loosely based on the truth, he wasn't some brilliant story teller). Which is to call the game tight for a certain player cause they are instructed that player got away with some missed calls, or something was noticed in reviewing the film from the previous game.
I really don't think it is a pie in the sky conspiracy theory to say the refs were said to watch for Oladipo charging on his drives or watch for Oladipo fighting through screens in their pregame notes. This isn't a conspiracy theory to the level of saying the refs were handed a note pregame that said "pacers must lose, do it at all costs." I would say sometimes these notes about to watch for are actually legit. Yesterday, just watching the game it really stood out to give a star player 2 ticky tack fouls in 68 seconds. I think the first foul was a block cause the guy was moving and in the restricted area. The second foul was a fighting through the screen foul that can be called on just about every play. You add into this all that Oladipo only averaged 2.3 fouls per 34 minutes on the season and the whole thing really didn't add up. Did you watch these plays? What do you think?
Yeah but you're describing a player being called tighter in response to getting away with things in prior games. That makes sense, and seems consistent with how refs ought to adjust during a series. It's also a long way from "the refs went after Oladipo with the goal of helping the Cavs win" which was the original idea here.
I haven't been able to find clips of the first foul but I've seen clips of his 2nd and 3rd and they're both fouls. There's a defense that maybe they aren't always called, and a weaker defense that they shouldn't be called, but I don't see anything that's an egregious call in a vacuum. You'd have to already believe the "rigged" narrative to see the calls as evidence of it.
The thing about the "make the series competitive" version of that narrative is that teams that are behind tend to play with more intensity out of desperation. And when one team's significantly more aggressive than the other, they often put their opponents off-balance and into situations where contact's made with the opponent in a poor position. Fouls aren't inevitable in those spots but they become very likely. That's what Cleveland did early and Oladipo got caught in some likely foul situations, the whistles were blown, he spent some time on the bench. Don't see anything more to it than that.