Portland Trail Blazers: A whistle-for-whistle look at the “fixed” 2000 Blazers-Lakers Game 7

Scottie Pippen. Arvydas Sabonis, Portland Trail Blazers (Photo credit should read Vince Bucci/AFP via Getty Images)
Scottie Pippen. Arvydas Sabonis, Portland Trail Blazers (Photo credit should read Vince Bucci/AFP via Getty Images) /
2 of 5
Portland Trail Blazers
Detlef Schrempf, Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by Tom Hauck/Getty Images) /

Takeaways and whistles from the first quarter of Game Seven:

How about a moment of silence for all of the storylines of this series? A down-the-middle 5-5 split between the two teams heading into this game. The psychology major (Mike Dunleavy Sr.) against the zen master (Phil Jackson). The seismic rumblings that another premature postseason loss would have done to this Lakers team, now in the fourth year of the Kobe-Shaq era.

One more unrelated pre-game note: I always thought it told an underrated story of just how confident the Lakers were, that they let the Blazers come out to actual “pump-up music” — “Love Like This” by Faith Evans. Not sure if that was preordained. But go back and look at other series from this time (such as that ‘02 Lakers-Kings series, or the ‘98 Jazz-Bulls). Home teams made their opponents come out to elevator, even funeral music and boos. Internally, it maybe tells a message: “We’ll let you pump yourself up, but it still won’t be enough.” Do what you will with this information, maybe insert a referee joke. But it’s an intriguing subplot.

For reference, the three referees for this game: the Dick Bavetta, Steve Javie and Hugh Evans.

And for length’s sake, we’ll cover a few takeaways from each quarter, and list the whistle-for-whistle analysis under that.

A few takeaways from the first quarter:

1. The Lakers start this game with Kobe Bryant guarding Damon Stoudamire, which works in containing him. The problems were much taller, though. Portland was using one of it’s staples — a right-to-left block cross screen that allowed Rasheed Wallace free real estate for his turnarounds and hooks.

2. Meanwhile, Shaquille O’Neal, the league’s Most Valuable Player in 2000, doesn’t get his first touch until the Lakers’ fourth possession, thanks to Portland fronting him with a player on the backside. When he does get the ball, he isn’t scoring, but he’s creating fouls. Of all the controversial themes of this series, Arvydas Sabonis’ fouls are probably the biggest points of contention. They killed Portland’s spacing (it allowed O’Neal to double team without fear of Brian Grant shooting). To that, Bill Walton ominously declares: “Shaquille O’Neal has to be one of the three most difficult players to guard, along with Moses Malone and Dennis Rodman.”

3. Bob Costas throws out a crazy thought during one of Kobe Bryant’s free throws. If he went to college, Bryant would have just graduated (he throws Lehigh University, C.J. McCollum’s future college out). And here he is: arguably the best performer on a court of teams vying for a spot in the NBA Finals. In understanding Sabonis is taking O’Neal out of the paint, Bryant crashes the glass with vigor, snatching in 3 of his game-high 11 rebounds.

4. How about this play at 16:39? If you’re ever looking for a sequence that contrasts the NBA in 2000 vs. 2020, this is the one. The Lakers defense completely ignores Rasheed Wallace(!!), knowing he wants to pass to the post. Instead of making them pay, he literally steps forward even more. Wallace did go an outlier-type 8-of-50 from 3-point range this season, but goodness, Robert Horry, can you at least pretend this isn’t Ben Simmons?

Analysis of the first quarter calls:

  • First whistle: a reach-in personal on Kobe Bryant, called by Dick Bavetta (2:31). — A good call. 
  • Second whistle: a personal foul on Damon Stoudamire, trying to cover Bryant all 94-feet, the length of the floor. He gets too ambitious. (3:05) — A good call.
  • Third whistle: A.C. Green gets called for a foul getting too handsy with Rasheed Wallace while fighting for post position. Could’ve gone either way. Wallace extends the arm, but Green gets the call. This benefits Portland, but it’s bang-bang. (3:51. — A bang-bang call.
  • Fourth whistle: Portland gets out on a fast break, and Pippen draws a foul on a layup. From my vantage point, it looked clean, and Harper argues it. But we aren’t in the trenches enough to see for ourselves. (5:12) — An inconclusive call.
  • Fifth whistle: Rasheed Wallace gets (mostly) single coverage on the left block. Missed the shot, but picks up an over the back push foul. It’s a good call, so much so that even he doesn’t argue it. (6:17) — A good call. 
  • Sixth whistle: Shaq beats Sabonis for deep positioning, and gets over physical. The positive here is that it’s been consistent on both sides. The referees are showing love to the offensive post player, as they did Rasheed Wallace. It’s a decent call here. (9:59) — A good call. 
  • Seventh whistle: Same thing with Grant. I would call this a bad call, but we aren’t close enough to really see. It’s certainly not a good call, though. (10:43).  — Inconclusive call. 
  • Eighth whistle: Grant picks up his second, too, trying to contest a shot by Shaq right at the rim. This wasn’t a good call. Grant’s arms go from horizontal to vertical as soon as O’Neal turns to lay it in. Portland players are looking around and wondering what they are to do. (11:49) — Bad call. 
  • Ninth whistle: Jermaine O’Neal picks up his first now. Makes contact trying to contend for a rebound. If you called this every time, NBA games wouldn’t end. But, rulebook considered, it’s a good call. (14:48) — Good call. 
  • 10th whistle: Illegal defense on Rick Fox. You don’t notice it at the time, but Scottie Pippen may as well have had to drop to a knee and beg Steve Javie to call it. (16:07). Good call, but begrudgingly. 

Calls benefiting the Lakers: 7

Calls benefiting the Blazers: 5

Score: Portland Trail Blazers, 23; Los Angeles Lakers, 16