Did Dan Gilbert just subtweet NBA refs about the Cavs-Celtics free-throw disparity?

Even among NBA owners used to getting their way in every other walk of life, the thing that might set Cavaliers governor Dan Gilbert apart from his peers is his propensity to get mad online.

From sending a strongly worded letter to then-commissioner David Stern to try and get him to block Chris Paul’s trade to the Lakers in 2011, to most infamously writing a (later-deleted) 2010-dated Comic Sans missive to fans in which he wrote “I PERSONALLY GUARANTEE THAT THE CLEVELAND CAVALIERS WILL WIN AN NBA CHAMPIONSHIP BEFORE THE SELF-TITLED FORMER ‘KING’ WINS ONE” after LeBron James left his team the first time, Gilbert has shown many times he’s willing to take to the interwebs to get angry.

His latest complaint, however, was a little more subtle than those past ones. After the Donovan Mitchell-less Cavaliers suffered a narrower-than-expected loss to the Boston Celtics to go down 3-1 in the second round of the NBA playoffs, Gilbert sent the following tweet:

Now, that seems innocuous enough on its face, right? But what does that 24/7 line mean? Was it a reference to LeBron James being in attendance and having a great time, hinting that maybe help is on the way? That wouldn’t be a bad guess in normal tin-foil hat circumstances, but in this case, the answer is much simpler, as Gilbert appears to be winking to fans with a read-between-the-lines or you’ll miss it complaint about the referees, as Boston shot 24 free-throws to the Cavaliers’ seven in a 109-102 loss.

Gilbert is clearly trying to get his message across here in a way in which he has plausible deniability to avoid a fine — and maybe in retrospect he can be glad the Cavs didn’t get at least one or two more free-throws, as this wouldn’t be as subtle if he was talking about working hard 24/8 or 24/9, right? That one fewer free-throw could save him a few thousand bucks!

It’s hard to imagine a grand NBA conspiracy to… rig a home game for the undermanned Cavs to lose to shorten a series so that Boston could have an easier path to the conference Finals(???)… but maybe that’s not what Gilbert is implying. Maybe he just thought the referees were not maliced, but instead simply terrible.

However, while those with rooting interests can always find a quibble with the refs, it’s kind of hard to see Gilbert having a real case here. His team was missing its best player and scorer, and took 16 more threes than the Celtics (48 triples to Boston’s 32), meaning they were in nearly every scenario always going to get to the line less than the Celtics while avoiding the paint that much.

But still, it’s a pretty funny bit from Gilbert to complain this way, and it will be fascinating to see if the NBA feels comfortable enough to actually fine him here. If they do, hopefully they write the press release in Comic Sans just to make this whole thing even funnier.

We will update this story if and when they do fine Gilbert for this.

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