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Friday, May 24, 2024

Rick Carlisle’s Wild ‘Small-Market’ Rant Is the Pacers’ Last Shot

  • The Pacers submitted 78 calls they disagreed with to the NBA. 
  • The coach stood up for small-market teams despite the success of Minnesota and Oklahoma City. 
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

After watching Jalen Brunson channel his inner Willis Reed against his team Wednesday night, Pacers coach Rick Carlisle gave quite the soliloquy in his postgame press conference. 

Down 2–0 to the Knicks in the second round of the NBA playoffs with the series heading back to Indianapolis, Carlisle railed against the officiating and followed suit by submitting 78 calls to the NBA that he had a problem with in the first two games of the series. The submissions were first reported by ESPN

“Small-market teams deserve an equal shot,” Carlisle said. “They deserve a fair shot no matter where they’re playing.”

Carlisle’s quote came as both Oklahoma City and Minnesota, small markets in their own right, lead their respective series in the Western Conference playoffs while small-market Cleveland just beat small-market Orlando in a seven-game first-round series. 

That’s not to say the officiating has been perfect. In an NBA season marred by officiating issues, an incorrect kicked ball call against Indiana in Game 1 resulted in a three-point swing for a game decided by four points. Carlisle was ejected toward the end of Game 2 after receiving two technical fouls from complaining with officials, the latter of which came on a correctly reversed double-dribble call that would have given the Pacers a key possession with victory still in reach.

His players did not agree with him. 

“They outplayed us,” said star point guard Tyrese Haliburton. “So let’s not pretend the refs are the reason we lost.”

“We’re not gonna sit here and blame officials,” teammate T.J. McConnell said. “We’ve got to be better. It’s just that simple. They smashed us on the boards again tonight and just brought more energy than we did.”

There is reason to believe Carlisle’s rant has some intention behind it. Despite being down 2–0, New York is running out of healthy bodies. Julius Randle and Mitchell Robinson, two of the Knicks’ best frontcourt players, are out for the season. OG Anunoby left Game 2 with an apparent leg injury after Brunson injured his foot in the first half, only to return in the second half 54 years to the day Reed played through a thigh injury to help the Knicks beat the Lakers in the 1970 NBA Finals. 

On Thursday morning, longtime NBA reporter Brian Windhorst speculated on ESPN that Carlisle is using the officiating as leverage to help get his team back in the series. 

“The Pacers, looking at how banged up the Knicks are, they think this series is absolutely still in play and they want to make the officiating a factor going into Game 3 in Indiana.”

Down 2–0 and clearly outworked by six healthy Knicks, Carlisle’s rant and transmissions to the league office have the air of a desperate defense lawyer doing everything he can to gum up a trial with a barrage of motions and filings. As aggravating as that can be, though, the reality is that it occasionally works.

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