Detroit — Zaza Pachulia took the pass under the rim from Blake Griffin and looked to have a clear path to the rim for an easy basket. In flew Toronto Raptors forward Pascal Siakam, his hip hitting Pachulia and altering his shot.
All that was missing was the whistle.
It never came.
The play continued and the Raptors eventually made a 3-pointer on the other end.
Pachulia never saw it. Before he even got to halfcourt, he was berating an official, incredulous that a call wasn’t made. Griffin was taken aback as well, maybe even stopping short on the defensive end because he was expecting a foul call.
Pachulia argued his point but when he bumped the official, he was assessed two technical fouls and ejected from the game. For his efforts, Pachulia got a $25,000 fine from the league on Monday.
The frustration with officials has been a recurring theme this season — and the Pistons are no strangers to getting rebuked for arguing against what they think are bad calls, or horrible no-calls.
Andre Drummond is tied for second in the league with 14 technical fouls, two behind Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook; Griffin is tied for sixth with 11. Pachulia (four) is the only other Pistons player in the top 50.
It’s an area that coach Dwane Casey realizes needs to be cleaned up, as it’s costing the Pistons as they argue with officials and aren’t getting back on defense.
“I talked to the guys and said we have to leave them alone. They are what they are. We have so many (veteran) officials who are injured: Bill Kennedy and Gary Zielinski,” Casey said Wednesday. “Those guys are learning on the job and we have young officials who are working their butts off and both teams have to stay off the officials because they’re learning as they go.
“It’s a tough job and you see something happen on the court and then go to the video and it’s not even close (both ways).”
Griffin and Drummond have been visibly upset by calls that haven’t gone their way throughout the season — and in fairness, it’s difficult sometimes to judge which contact is a foul and what should go uncalled. Casey doesn’t want his players to get caught up in trying to make those determinations while the game is going on, causing them to lose focus.
“(Officials) are the easy target when things aren’t going good but we have to put our minds to the fact that we can’t stay on the officials,” Casey said. “We have to get off them and play the game and let your play do the talking.”
Like the last-two-minute reports from the ends of close games, teams also get a review of all the calls in a game, which coaches generally don’t discuss. Casey has said that some of the calls he’s seen on video looked a lot different than they did in real time — some for and some against the Pistons.
That’s made him have more respect for what the officials are doing; moreover, there’s no way to change the calls in the past.
“You have to (accept it) because they’re the judge and jury and you have to go with what they’re saying. A lot of times, you see something on the court and swear it’s a foul but then you look on the film,” Casey said. “NBA players are great actors; they’re some of the best actors. You think it’s a foul and you’re dead wrong. Most of the time, the officials made a good call.
“We have to adjust to the officiating and how they call it that night, because it changes each night. You have to adjust your play, whether it’s being aggressive or not fouling, based on how they’re calling that night.”