With the start of the NBA Playoffs, there are a few things that are going to be expected. There will be close games, big shots and upsets galore but the one thing everyone wishes wasn't a certainty that will happen is poor and questionable officiating. This ugly truth of the playoffs reared it's ugly head again this weekend and got quite a few people buzzing about it.
The biggest officiating question mark of the weekend is the free throw disparity in a few of the games, most notably the Heat-76ers and the Mavericks-TrailBlazers games. Both of these affairs featured a very large disparity between the two teams in regards to free throws taken and were very much a deciding factor in the outcome of the game.
The lesser of these two evils was the Heat-76ers game where the FT disparity was 39-15 in favor of the Heat. On the surface, you would have a case that the calls favored the Heat in an unfair way but a closer look at the game itself shows the reason for the big difference in the numbers. Basically, the 76ers did their damage with the jump shot as opposed to the Heat, who more decisively took it to the rim. Philly shot 39 jumpers in the game, according to Synergy Sports video tracking, and when they did take it to the hope, it was either a clean lane or a fast break. You can't get calls if you don't make contact and Philadelphia was doing everything they could to avoid contact with the Heat in game 1.
The Portland TrailBlazers, on the other hand, can cry shenanigans and have a legit reason to do so.
The Dallas Mavericks, struggling through three quarters, got a huge assist in the fourth by the refs to pull out the game 1 win. They got to the foul line 19 times to Portland's 2 in the final period, proving the deciding factor in an otherwise close game. Looking closer at this discrepancy makes it even more crazy than the initial 19-2 stat as well.
A closer look reveals that Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki got to the line for 13 free throws in the final period (which coincidentally, is the same number of times Portland went to the line all game) as opposed to zero times threw the first three periods. A closer look reveals that Portland controlled the inside, outscoring Dallas 46-18 in the paint, the area where the most fouls are called.
A closer look reveals that the officiating was clearly one-sided.
"The free throws, I just don't get that," McMillan said. "It's hard for our guys to know how to play out there when it's called a little different; 19 to two in the fourth quarter. And I felt like we were attacking, and guys really didn't know how to play with the fouls that were being called. A lot of touch fouls. I thought that took the momentum away and pretty much gave them control in the game."
Officiating is always going to be a sore topic when it comes to the playoffs because not every team is going to be happy with it, only the winning ones, but such glaring disparities can't help but incite controversy. Unlike a single missed call or a poorly called foul, an all game difference like the ones seen in these two games is going to create a hotbed of complaints, and rightly so.
Hopefully the NBA has taken note and memo's are being sent out across the nation telling the officials that they might want to watch the bias from here on out.
Photo Courtesy of: AP Images