Sometimes, it doesn't matter. You can have a great evening, making all the right decisions - and then one call ruins everything.
Such was the situation this evening at the Nokia Stadium in Tel Aviv in the quarter-final best-of-three third game between Maccabi Tel Aviv and Barcelona, eventually won by Maccabi 88-75.
Situation: third quarter, Vontego Cummings (ex-Pitt) is guarding Barcelona's hot-shooting Italian guard, Gianluca Basile. Cummings wraps him up under the basket and drags him to the floor- no call! Basile understandably reacts emotionally and kicks back somewhat at Cummings - the two of them engage in some silly slapping at each other while players from both teams separate them, including Maccabi's Derrick Sharp and Esteban Batista, who have come off the bench to intervene. There were no closed fists, and no one even tried to throw a punch.
The referees snap into action and overrreact: Cummings and Basile are ejected, as well as Sharp and Batista. Barcelona is of course the big loser in all of this as Basile, their top scorer (25 ppg in the first two games of the series) heads to the locker room.
Oh, and one other problem: the referees forget to make sure that Batista knows that he's ejected and they leave him on the bench until the begnning of the 4th quarter, when they discover their mistake and send him, too, to the showers. No one understands quite why he has been ejected - very embarassing.
The whole thing was unnecessary. Cummings should have been called for the initial foul, and if anything, he and Basile could have been assessed unsportsmanlike fouls. Sharp and Batista were rightly tossed from the game - but their ejections were administered poorly, to say the least.
The NBA has very clear directives regarding these situations and would have taken care of this very simply: regular foul against Cummings, likely technicals against Cummings and Basile, and they would have stayed in the game. Sharp and Batista would have been tossed for coming off the bench. The key to throwing a player out is whether or not the hand becomes closed in a fist and a punch is thrown (whether it connects or not thereafter is irrelevant). I know Europeans are always wary of American "imperialism", but on matters of basketball officiating, the Euroleague could sometimes try to learn a few things from their American cousins.