After finishing the 2017-18 regular season with a 65-17 record and the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference, the Houston Rockets ended up losing to the defending champion Golden State Warriors in an intense seven-game Western Conference Finals series, with the Warriors going on to sweep the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals soon after. With Houston and Golden State having recently renewed their rivalry in their second-round playoff matchup this year, new reports suggest that Rockets officials still believe biased officiating led to last year’s Western Conference Finals loss and cost them a chance to win the NBA championship.
The first report on the matter was published on Monday morning by The Athletic’s Sam Amick, who wrote that the Rockets concluded that NBA referees cost them 93 points across all seven games of the 2018 Western Conference Finals. Citing Amick’s report, NBC Sports Bay Area noted that the Rockets supposedly referred to Golden State as the “Super Team Warriors” and insinuated that the defending NBA champions have been getting a “major officiating advantage” in “heavy-hitter matchups.”
Separately, ESPN’s Zach Lowe and Rachel Nichols reported on Monday afternoon that the Houston Rockets sent a report to the NBA, which detailed 81 alleged missed calls and non-calls in Game 7 of last year’s series against the Warriors. The team was also said to have written a memo that accused NBA referees of “likely [changing] the eventual NBA champion,” but as Lowe and Nichols noted, the document was not sent to NBA president of league operations Byron Spruell as originally planned.
“There can be no worse result for the NBA,” the Rockets’ memo allegedly read.
Per league sources, the Rockets ultimately chose not to send the memo to Spruell because the team was able to meet in person with NBA officials in the aftermath of the 2018 Western Conference Finals and tell them what they felt about the matter. This included the aforementioned Game 7 analysis, which reportedly used the NBA’s “official interpretation” of the calls that were made — and not made — during the game.
Rockets believe officiating in ’18 WC Finals cost them a shot at an NBA Championship. In a report sent to NBA, Houston cites 81 potential missed and non-calls in Game 7, per @ZachLowe_NBA & @Rachel__Nichols pic.twitter.com/TrQkMbF75o— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) April 29, 2019
All in all, the Rockets reportedly believe that the 81 combined “calls, non-calls, and violations” they enumerated in the report resulted in the team losing 18.6 points in Game 7 of the 2018 Western Conference Finals. Despite the fact that the Rockets led by as many as 15 points in that game, they eventually fell to the Warriors, losing 101-92 as they missed 27 straight three-point shot attempts during an extended stretch from the middle of the second quarter to the middle of the fourth.
As further explained by ESPN’s Lowe and Nichols, the Rockets’ memo to Spruell recommended that the NBA add a fourth referee during games and that the league allow all teams to access “full-game officiating reports” after each game.
Despite these suggestions and the above-mentioned accusations of referee bias, league representative Mike Bass told ESPN that the NBA, as it previously told Rockets officials, “[does] not agree with their methodology.”