Entering Sunday’s Air Canada Centre matinee vs. the Oklahoma City Thunder, the vibes around the Toronto Raptors were at an unprecedented levels of positivity. On a double-digit winning streak — including a handful of come-from-behind wins — the Raptors were flying high with Russell Westbrook and the Thunder. This showdown of the surprising Eastern Conference leaders and Western Conference dark horse promised to showcase the best of both teams.
It was a game that lived up to the billing on the box score. The Thunder scored 132 points and snapped the Raptors streak in a shootout. Effort was peak in a Sunday afternoon timeslot, infamous for the Raptors ‘White Vegas’ reputation of players showing up to the Air Canada Centre hungover after a night enjoying Toronto’s excellent nightlife options.
However, the officiating of Marc Davis hung a cloud on an otherwise excellent regular-season basketball contest.
— Derek Selinger (@DerekSelinger) March 18, 2018
Davis played a huge role in fouling out Kyle Lowry with over three minutes left in the fourth quarter of a back and forth game; an event that was the tipping point of a full-blown controversy by the time the final horn sounded at the ACC.
After calling five of Lowry’s six fouls, Davis and his crew missed two foul calls on DeMar DeRozan late. Both instances allowed Corey Brewer to create a stop on the Raptors top scorer and led to Thunder points the other way to close the game.
With the Raptors deservedly pissed off at this point, Davis threw gasoline to the already engulfing flames of rage in Toronto by ejecting DeMar DeRozan and Serge Ibaka. Not done, Davis ejected Raptors head coach Dwane Casey over a fan heckling him and created a toxic atmosphere of hate normally reserved for European sporting events inside of the ACC.
Marc Davis called FIVE out of Lowry’s 6 fouls. Ejects DeRozan. Ejects Ibaka. Several non-calls down the stretch against the Raptors. And EJECTS CASEY OVER A FAN, A FUCKING FAN, HECKLING HIM.
— Johnny Tsunami (@ManvirSamra) March 18, 2018
— CJ Fogler (@cjzero) March 18, 2018
Raptors fans, not pleased watching two of their starters and their head coach ejected after getting jobbed by Davis and his crew, reached a point of anger that forced security to escort the officials into their locker room after the game.
Referees got a full security escort off the floor in Toronto pic.twitter.com/vCtuPEoQsB
— CJ Fogler (@cjzero) March 18, 2018
This isn’t the first time the Raptors have bristled with Davis or the NBA’s officiating crew. However, you have to wonder if the likes of the Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets or Cleveland Cavs would ever be treated the way Marc Davis treated the Eastern Conference leading Raptors on Sunday afternoon.
Rightfully so, Raptors fans and local media took Davis to task for his ref show antics to end an otherwise great game. A game where the Thunder’s 132-point performance should have been the story and was instead taken away by the antics of one of the NBA’s least popular current referees.
DeRozan livid a non-call by – yep — Marc Davis, who tees him up
Thousands of dollars fans pay to watch Marc Davis.
Must think he's an ump
— Doug Smith: Raptors (@SmithRaps) March 18, 2018
Marc Davis just tossing guys for sport now.
— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) March 18, 2018
There is an argument the Raptors and their fanbase need to get over their conspiracies of a league-wide plot against Canada’s only NBA franchise. At the same time, egregious displays from officials like Davis won’t mend the fractured relationship between the Raptors players, coaches and fanbase towards the league.
After three playoff runs that featured plenty of ‘questionable’ officiating performances from Davis and Tony Brothers, the Raptors have a short fuse and little patience for heel-ish displays from the NBA’s often unacceptably dramatic referees. It is sometimes a fallacy as the Raptors receive a high number of free throws each year, but after Sunday night it certainly feels like there are certain referees in the league who take a great pleasure in stoking the flames when they cross the border into Canada.
Here is to hoping Marc Davis leaves his passport in America come playoff time. The focus should be on basketball and not the rivalry between a team and fanbase against one of the league’s most annoying officials. At the end of the day fans pay to go to the arena and to tune in on TV to see great basketball, not the drama between a certain team and one of the league’s officiating crews.
If the NBA season is to have a great ending, Marc Davis won’t be involved in the Raptors playoff run.