- Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer
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DALLAS -- As far as Dallas conspiracy theories go, referee Danny Crawford working Mavericks playoff games ranks right up there with who shot J.R. Ewing.
Crawford is the lead official of the crew that will work Tuesday night's Game 2 in the Dallas Mavericks' first-round series against the Portland Trail Blazers. That will make many Mavs fans cringe, given the franchise's miserable track record in playoff games worked by Crawford.
The Mavs have a 2-16 record in playoff games officiated by Crawford, including 16 losses in the last 17 games. Dallas is 48-41 in the rest of their playoff games during the ownership tenure of Mark Cuban, who has been fined millions of dollars in the last 11 years for publicly complaining about officiating.
"Not saying a word," Cuban wrote in an email when asked to comment on the Mavs' playoff history with Crawford.
"We have no concerns about the fairness of Danny Crawford's officiating in Dallas games, whether in the playoffs or regular season," NBA senior vice president of referee operations Ron Johnson said via email. "And there has never been any consideration given to not scheduling Crawford or any other referee to a particular team's games."
Dallas has a six-game playoff losing streak in games officiated by Crawford, which began with Game 3 of the 2006 NBA Finals, when the Miami Heat rallied from a 13-point deficit midway through the fourth quarter. Crawford also worked Game 6 of those Finals, when the Heat won their fourth consecutive game to claim the championship. The Heat had a 71-49 advantage in free throws in those two games.
The Mavs have been called for 2.3 fouls per game more than their opponents in playoff games officiated by Crawford, compared to a nearly even foul differential in their other playoff games since 2001. Dallas has averaged 6.8 fewer free throws than their opponents in playoff games Crawford has worked. Opponents have an edge in free throw differential in the rest of the Mavs' playoff games, but it's only by a little more than one attempt per game.
"I don't consider that a factor," Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said Tuesday after being asked if a ref can have an affect on a team. "It would be pretty defeatist if we did. He's a great official and history shows that."
Asked if he'll discuss the referee choice for Game 2 with the team, Carlisle added: "It should go without saying, but if needed I would address it. But I don't think we need to."
The assignment of Crawford to Game 2 of the Portland-Dallas series comes on the heels of Blazers coach Nate McMillan being fined $35,000 for publicly commenting on the officiating after the Mavs' 89-81 win Saturday night. McMillan questioned how the Mavs could have a 19-2 advantage in free throws during the fourth quarter of that game.
The Mavs won their first playoff game officiated by Crawford, a 94-91 victory over the Utah Jazz on April 28, 2001 to begin a comeback from an 0-2 hole to win that series. Their only win since then in a playoff game officiated by Crawford was in Game 5 of the 2006 Western Conference finals, when Dirk Nowitzki scored a franchise-playoff-record 50 points in a 117-101 victory over the Phoenix Suns.
Crawford worked Game 3 of the Mavs' first-round series against the San Antonio Spurs last season. That 94-90 loss for Dallas featured two controversial plays that went against the Mavs in the fourth quarter: an offensive foul against Nowitzki with the score tied and nine minutes remaining and a clear pushoff that Spurs guard Tony Parker got away with against J.J. Barea before hitting a shot that put San Antonio up five points in the final minute.
The Mavs are 4-14 against the betting line in playoff games officiated by Crawford.
Tim MacMahon covers the Mavericks for ESPNDallas.com. Jeff Caplan of ESPNDallas.com and Alok Pattani of ESPN Stats and Information contributed to this report.
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