Fill-In Refs Blasted by Irate Coach

NEW YORK -- It was just another night with minor-league referees in a major-league game -- frustrating, testy, but no worse than many another this young NBA season.


"We need to get our refs back," said the Indiana Pacers' Eddie Johnson after Thursday's game with the New York Knicks. "Everybody's arguing every call. That doesn't happen with the regular referees."


After all the shouting was over, the injury-depleted Pacers said their 103-95 loss to the Knicks was not the fault of the replacement referees, but they weren't happy about the situation.


The NBA locked out the union refs in a dispute over pay levels as they try to negotiate a new contract.


Spokesmen for the league and for the Knicks said they had no information about the two referees working the game beyond names, Mike Bobiak and Tom Drakeford.


"It's frustrating to have officials coming off of supermarket jobs and refereeing our games," said Indiana sharpshooter Reggie Miller.


The biggest blowup on the night was Indiana coach Larry Brown's.


With just under five minutes left in the game, Brown, on the court and arguing furiously over a foul call, received two technical fouls and was ejected.


He refused to leave, and referee Drakeford appeared to be losing his temper, too. "The referee was a little perturbed with the situation," Johnson said dryly.


Brown was dragged away from the ref and off the court. "We made sure Larry didn't touch him," Indiana assistant coach Gar Heard said.


Brown then produced the basketball and took a long hook shot from out of bounds that for a moment looked like it might go in. Who knows, these refs might have counted it.


Brown was not talking after the game, possibly fearing a fine under league rules that prohibit public criticism of officials.


Compounding the problem is that only two referees are being used, not the normal three. "Even with our own referees, two is tough," said Johnson.


(For other results, see Scorecard.)