BOSTON -- As if the Celtics-Bulls series wasn't already good enough, now it has the final ingredient: a good old fashioned referee conspiracy.
The Boston Herald and Boston Globe both reported Monday that two of the three referees who officiated Game 4 in Chicago are Chicago natives who were seen leaving United Center with family members clad in Bulls gear. The two refs in question were Dan Crawford and Marc Davis. The third officlal, Bill Kennedy, was involved in an incident with Celtics coach Doc Rivers during the team's St. Patrick's Day game. Kennedy ejected Rivers during the March 17 game, and both were subsequently fined.
A couple of problems: After the NBA's extensive and unprecedented efforts to clean up its officiating and hold referees to the highest standards of conduct in the wake of the Tim Donaghy scandal, are we really going to hold them accountable for what kind of clothing their family members wear? Am I biased because one of my sons wears a Dwyane Wade jersey and the other one prefers LeBron James? And finally, there was only one questionable call in Game 4, the block-charge call that was missed on the Celtics' Brian Scalabrine. One key element that is required for a referee conspiracy would be blown calls.
Heading over to Game 5 now. The Bulls' Ben Gordon is questionable with a strained hamstring and says it'll be his call on whether he plays. I suppose that means he will.
UPDATE: Gordon said an hour before tipoff that he's "50-50," but coach Vinny Del Negro spoke before the game as if Gordon was going to play. He's still officially a game-time decision.
As for the officials, the NBA moved to tamp down any brewing controversy in this series -- and others -- by fining Rivers, Rockets coach Rick Adelman, and Portland coach Nate McMillan $25,00 each -- and their teams $25,000 each -- for criticizing the officials. Between Games 4 and 5, Rivers lobbied for moving screen calls against the Bulls' Brad Miller, who fouled out of Game 4. He also said Kendrick Perkins has been targeted on illegal screen calls.
"Ah, that's a waste of time," Del Negro said before Game 5. "I don't think Brad's fast enough to set an illegal screen. Plus, he was on the bench (with six fouls). So I don't know how much sense that makes."