OAKLAND - In the days leading up to Game 2 of the Western Conference Semifinals, the 24-hour NBA news cycle twirled around the performance of the officials in Game 1.
There were complaints of negligence in calls towards star players and even a Houston Rockets-led internal audit of the Western Conference Finals.
Now, more than 48 hours and a 115-109 win from Golden State, it seems like the Warriors are content with the referee's performance.
"I didn't even notice the officiating," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said of the crew made up of Scott Foster, Ed Malloy and Eric Lewis. "I don't think anybody did. I think that's the best compliment you can give them. They did a great job. This game was just about basketball."
"I think both teams, both coaches, just let the refs do their job I think all night. There wasn't no talks about it. Out on the court, the chatter wasn't about anything outside the game, what was happening between players."
Though the Warriors were called for more fouls in Game 2 and even were called for more technical fouls, Houston Rockets James Harden, who finished with 29 points, seven rebounds and four assists, shot five less free throws in Game 2. However, the starkest difference was the Warriors response in the first half when a foul was called. During a possession in the second quarter, Draymond Green was called for a foul on Harden then walked towards the Rockets bench, away from Malloy, to avoid complaining.
"I think both teams, both coaches, just let the refs do their job I think all night," Warriors forward Kevin Durant said. "There wasn't no talks about it. Out on the court, the chatter wasn't about anything outside the game, what was happening between players."
Tuesday's matchup was a culmination of two days worth of fodder centered around the league's officiating. Following Game 1, The Athletic reported the Rockets counted eight 3-point attempts that should have been called for fouls on closeouts by the Warriors in Game 1. It was also reported that the Rockets sent the league an internal audit that blamed referees for costing them the NBA title last season following a loss to the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals.
The following day, Warriors Steve Kerr simulated Harden's habit of drawing fouls in front of reporters Monday, essentially putting a bullseye on the officials entering Game 2 Tuesday evening, much to the chagrin of Golden State.
It's kind of disheartening for a game that I love, since I was a child, to see the talk over the last few games was nothing about basketball and everything about foul calls," Green said, despite getting called for a technical foul late in the second half. "Is that what the game is coming to? The talk is going to be about foul calls?"
The talk also seemed to motivate prior to Game 2. In the hours leading up to the showdown, some within the Warriors staff hoped that the news of Houston's dealings with the league would motivate the Warriors, who have had their problems with complacency throughout the season, to start the contest.
"A little bit," Warriors forward Kevon Looney told NBC Sports Bay Area. "People was saying we just won Game 1 because of the referees and we felt some type of way about that. We felt like we played a good game and we executed and won fair and square."
The new officiating crew didn't completely deter the troubles in Game 1. In the first quarter, Harden was poked in the eye, causing a laceration in his left eyelid and no foul was called. In the third quarter, after Harden was fouled behind the line by Durant, Rockets guard Chris Paul sarcastically pumped his fist at the referee. Minutes later, Green was called for a technical foul for a minor verbal dispute with Rockets big man Nene. Still, Golden State seemed to approve of the crew's performance.
"I love the game of basketball," Green said. "It was fun out there tonight. Like I said, let us play physical, let us be physical, let us play the game, which I enjoyed. I ain't really about a technical foul. It is what it is.