DALLAS -- Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle made pointed comments criticizing officials for letting the Houston Rockets get away with what he considered to be illegal physical play during Friday night's Game 3.
"Look, referees miss calls, but there's just a lot of physical stuff going on out there that just doesn't look kosher to me," Carlisle said after a 130-128 loss that put the Mavs on the brink of elimination. "They're a more physical team, but this series has got to be played within the rules."
Without prompting, Carlisle specifically mentioned a long rebound by Rockets center Dwight Howard on the opening possession of the fourth quarter, a play on which Dallas guard Devin Harris ended up flat on his back by the Mavs' bench after Howard warded him off with his right arm.
"We're scrambling like hell defensively and Devin Harris is going to get the ball, and Dwight Howard throws him into our bench," said Carlisle, adding that he had reviewed the play six times on film. "He takes the ball, skips it over the top and [Trevor] Ariza gets a wide-open 3. So instead of us getting the ball and a foul on Howard, it turns into essentially a five- [or] six-point swing.
"That stuff's got to stop. The officials got to get that stuff under control, because there's too much physical stuff going on. Howard is throwing people all over the place, and that can't happen in Game 4."
After being informed of Carlisle's comments, Howard reacted by turning to teammate James Harden and mouthing, "Wow, really." Howard, who grabbed a career-playoff-high 26 rebounds in the game, then offered a politically correct response to the question.
"It's a long series, and my job is to be dominant in the paint and just do my best," Howard said. "I don't think about it when I'm out there. I just go out there and play."
Mavs owner Mark Cuban did not comment after the game, sticking to his policy of being publicly silent during the playoffs. However, as usual, Cuban vocally disagreed with several calls during the game despite the fouls count being even at 28 per team.
During the fourth quarter, Cuban made a point to express his displeasure to commissioner Adam Silver, who was seated next to the midcourt tunnel. Cuban briefly exited the floor after an offensive foul called against Mavs forward Al-Farouq Aminu, walking from his baseline seat by the Mavs' bench into the midcourt tunnel, glaring at Silver and shaking his head as he walked by the commissioner. When Cuban returned moments later, he complained to Silver, shouting over press row as he walked.
"That's exactly what we talked about!" Cuban shouted.
That appeared to be a reference to Cuban's discussion with league officials after the Mavs owner publicly declared in late March that it was "criminal" that Mavs guard Monta Ellis didn't get more fouls called on drives to the basket.
Cuban said the following week that he traveled to New York to review film with Silver, NBA president of basketball operations Rod Thorn and other league officials regarding the rule of verticality for defensive players.
The league never announced a fine for Cuban stemming from those comments. His fine totals during previous commissioner David Stern's tenure reached well into seven figures, with many of the fines assessed for public criticism of officiating. Silver, who replaced Stern in February 2014, has never publicly fined Cuban.