Special to Sports News Highlights

(SNH) — When played properly, basketball can be a beautiful game to behold. The NBA playoffs this year, however, have been far from beautiful. In fact, at times things have been downright ugly.

Four prominent issues have been in stark relief over the last month, and they threaten to make this year’s postseason one to forget.  

Bad Officiating

Nobody believes that NBA officials have an easy job. They have to monitor giant men running and jumping at full speed and need to make split-second decisions about blowing – or not blowing – the whistle. And while most of the time they get credit for calling good games, the playoffs have been marred by a lot of miscues. After several games, the NBA has had to release statements chronicling missed calls, and this has led to speculation (or outright declarations) from fans and coaches that the fix is in.

Player Misconduct

The playoffs are a pressure cooker, so it’s to be expected that things can get heated. But there have been many incidents in which players lost their cool. In the Knicks-Sixers first-round matchup, Joel Embiid purposely twisted the leg of Mitchell Robinson, who then had to leave the game with an injury. While getting blown-out by the Timberwolves, Jamal Murray threw a heat pack onto the court while play was still going on. Perhaps worst of all, the Bucks’ Pat Beverly twice threw a ball into the stands at jeering Pacers’ fans.

So Many Blowouts

With the top teams playing against one another, the level of competition in the postseason should be high. And while wide margins of victory are perhaps expected in a 1-8 matchup, they’ve been common in pretty much every series. There have been numerous games in which fans could’ve left the arena or turned off their TVs after the third quarter (or even halftime) knowing how the game would end.

The Cavaliers-Magic series in the first round, for example, went seven games yet there were only a couple of really close ones. Even though the Cavs won the series, they lost their three games by a combined 78 points. It’s clear that after a long and grueling season, many players are running on fumes.

Rash of Injuries

Perhaps the most troubling theme that has emerged in the playoffs has been the wave of injuries. At this time of the season, the best teams should have their best players ready to go. But several have missed key games, including Jimmy Butler, Kristaps Porzingis, and Kawhi Leonard. And this doesn’t include the players who played hurt or the ones who couldn’t even make it to the postseason, such as Giannis Antetokounmpo, Julius Randle, and Wendell Carter Jr.

While injuries are a part of the game and can never be completely avoided, the NBA bears some responsibility for them. The league this year implemented a new policy that requires players to play at least 65 games in order to qualify for postseason awards. This was in response to teams resting players throughout the regular season. So, instead of getting some much-needed time off to nurse nagging injuries, players had to grin and bear it, and that extra wear and tear has been on full display lately.

The NBA still has time to redeem itself, and we could be in store for an exciting last month of postseason games. But, if the above problems persist and guys are staggering to the finish line, it may be time for the league to make some real changes.

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