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How Unusual Was the Finals Foul Disparity?

Posted by Neil Paine on June 29, 2010

There's a good discussion brewing in the comments of yesterday's thread, centering on whether the big disparity in FTA between L.A. and Boston during the NBA Finals was something we could have expected based on the two teams' season-long tendencies. Here are the facts we know right now:

  1. Los Angeles received far more free throw attempts per shot in the immediate basket area than Boston did.
  2. Per possession, Boston was the 3rd-most foul-prone team in the NBA during the season; L.A. was the 2nd-least foul-prone team.

Basically, Boston fouled a lot more than L.A. during the Finals, but they also fouled a lot against everybody, and L.A. was a team that didn't foul much at all. The question is whether the disparity during the Finals was bigger than we would expect based on the teams' known fouling tendencies. Fortunately, I can estimate a team's expected fouls per possession and free throw attempts per possession by comparing their regular-season rates to the league-average and multiplying by their opponent's regular-season rates:

BOS Expected PF/Poss = ((BOS PF/Poss) / (Lg Avg PF/Poss)) * (LAL Opponent PF/Poss)

Boston committed .240 PF/Poss during the regular-season in a league where the average was .223; the Lakers' opponents committed .227 PF/Poss. Therefore, we would expect Boston to commit (.240 / .223) * .227 = .244 PF/Poss against Los Angeles, and in reality they committed .291 PF/Poss... But before you get conspiratorial, consider that the Lakers, who could have expected to commit .219 PF/Poss vs. Boston, actually committed .261 PF/Poss -- so the officials actually called more fouls on everyone. If you scale those numbers back down from the Finals-wide average of .276 to the regular-season league average of .223, the numbers would be .236 for Boston and .211 for L.A., which are actually very much in keeping with the .244 and .219 figures we would expect from their regular-season numbers.

That's only half the story, though -- free throws are where the conspiracy buffs really make their case, since the Lakers shot 51 more FTA than the Celtics did despite Boston taking more shots in the immediate basket area. Using the same methodology outlined above, except with FTA/Poss instead of PF/Poss, we see that Los Angeles took .259 FTA/Poss in a league where average was .263. Boston conceded .285 opponent FTA/Poss during the season, so we would expect L.A. to take (.259 / .263) * .285 = .281 FTA/poss in a series with the Celts; instead, they took .335 FTA/poss. On the other side, we would have expected Boston to have .244 FTA/poss against the Lakers, and in reality they had .249.

This result is unexpected -- Boston essentially had just as many FTA/poss as we would have expected based on team tendencies, but Los Angeles' rate of FTA/poss is dramatically higher than we would have expected. However, neither team's rate of fouls per possession was unexpected, so the only real unexpected outcome of the Finals in the fouling department was the number of free throws Los Angeles shot per foul drawn.

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69 Responses to “How Unusual Was the Finals Foul Disparity?”

  1. P Middy Says:

    So that could be because of getting a lot of fouls called on shots. In order to post that kind of disparity, you need to be getting to the line and getting closer to the penalty at the same time.

  2. Neil Paine Says:

    I haven't done any research on this, but I would imagine shooting fouls committed are highly correlated with blocked shots, certainly at the team level. And we established that there was a disparity in shot-blocking between Boston and L.A., so it makes sense that there would be a corresponding disparity in shooting fouls committed. I don't know if that explains the magnitude of the FTA disparity, but it certainly could explain the existence of the FTA disparity.

  3. Patrick Says:

    I wonder if there is a point where increasing PF/POSS has a dramatic effect on FTA/POSS, since there would be more possessions in the penalty, and any foul, not just shooting fouls, would result in free throws.

  4. jonty Says:

    Neil,

    Great posts. Thanks. One thing I remember clearly is that during the first round if I remember correctly OKC shot a ton of FT compared to LA even though LA outscored them heavily in the paint. So I think the FTA attempts seem to take a course of their own from series to series.

    jonty

  5. Gil Meriken Says:

    As Patrick stated, while it helps to know what kind of fouls are being called, just because FTs are involved does not mean that shooting fouls are being called, because of the penalty situation.

    Short of going to the game tape, I guess I could back to the play-by-plays and see how early each team was in the penalty, and also need to factor in when the teams were fouling just to stay in a close game that they were losing at the end.

  6. JP Says:

    I think that the increase in fouls called on both teams was more or less visible to anyone watching the first two games of this series, where the officials were calling the games very tightly. You can see this in the total fouls called in the game (54 fouls called in Game 1, 58 in Game 2).

    The majority of the FTA disparity happened in Game 2 (LA 41 - BOS 26) and Game 7 (LA 37 - BOS 17) of the NBA Finals, particularly the last quarter of game 7 where I think L.A. shot 21 FTA compared to just 6 FTA for Boston. All of the games after Game 2 were called a little more loosely (i.e. less total fouls called), with the exception of the fourth quarter of Game 7 which had probably the most striking disparity in FTA (21-6), although I do believe that at least 4-6 FTA's were intentional fouls that Boston committed.

    Still, that's over a 2-1 FTA advantage at a point in a championship series where you would expect the officials to "swallow their whistles" and let the players decide the game. It's this maddening subjectivity in NBA officiating that really drives the conspiracy theories and takes away from the game itself. Any analysis on what drove the FTA disparity would have to be centered on those two games first and foremost in my opinion.

  7. Neil Paine Says:

    #3. Yeah, I'd be willing to bet that there's a certain threshold of PF/Poss at which FTA/PF begins to increase exponentially, simply because of the bonus.

  8. Gil Meriken Says:

    JP - Boston was in the penalty very quickly in the fourth quarter of Game 7. This was a big detriment to their defensive efforts. Going back and watching it again yesterday, the calls weren't particularly egregious (obviously this is my subjective opinion), the main reason for the FT disparity is that the Lakers were getting to the line for non-shooting calls. For example, Kobe got two FTs simply for capturing a defensive rebound after being obviously fouled by Glen Davis, who came crashing into him as Kobe secured the ball in the air. Davis didn't even contest the call, but it was this kind of foul that killed the Celtics.

  9. Gil Meriken Says:

    More analysis ideas - which teams are able to stop fouling at their normal rate once they are in the penalty?

  10. JP Says:

    #8

    That subjectivity is really the crux of the matter though. Kobe shot 15 FTA, yet I only remember him attacking the rim less than four times in the entire game. I also remember several fouls called on Ray Allen that were questionable calls (subjectively so of course), and I remember at least four shot blocks from Rasheed Wallace that were all called fouls, yet anyone could subjectively call them clean blocks as well. You could go on and on about these subjective items in the game, but how does anyone definitively know if they are correct?

    This subjectivity is a real problem with NBA officiating and is exacerbated in a series when two teams are evenly matched. It's this subjectivity that raises questions as to the legitimacy of the NBA's product. The NBA always states that it has the greatest officials in the game, yet when you see a call made in the NCAA with so-called inferior officials, you don't see every fan in the stands react with anger and incredulity. You definitely see that reaction from just a majority of calls in an NBA game. The reason for this is that the NCAA calls everything by the book as much as possible, at least it appears that way to me, although I'm sure some would disagree.

    The point I'm trying to make is that analyzing these statistics is a great exercise in determining how and why the results of something occurred, but the big X factor that seems to always appear is the subjectivity of the NBA officials calling certain fouls one way or another. Yes you can say that the reason why the Lakers shot so many free throws in quarter 4 is because the Celtics were in the penalty. But how they got into the penalty is entirely too subjective as a whole...just because Glen Davis doesn't argue a foul call, doesn't mean that it is or isn't a foul, even though it looked like it was to me too in this instance, but you get my point.

    This subjectivity is my biggest problem with the NBA, and it probably is that way for most fans. The only way I can think of to assuage this problem is to minimize the impact of free throws somehow. As long as this remains an issue, it allows people to constantly question the legitimacy of a game I truly love to watch.

    For the record, I think that the NBA Finals was a 50/50 proposition for the Celtics at best, and I think the Lakers have the better team when healthy, but the fact of the matter is that they could have won this series without the excessive free throw disparity, because they are good enough to do so. That being said, if the free throw disparity was reversed, it's likely, though certainly not definite, that they wouldn't have won it at all. This alone means that an entire championship series could have, been swayed by the subjectivity of the NBA officiating, because it was a very evenly matched series, and that is the heart of the problem.

  11. JP Says:

    As an addendum to my humongous post, I don't believe that the NBA is guiding the results of these games for some ulterior motive. I just believe that there is too much gray area when it comes to how the NBA calls it's fouls, and the NBA officials are either inept in some cases, or allowed too much leeway in interpreting what is or isn't a foul, which can be seen a lot when they seemingly guess at things.

    You can see where this path goes by watching any World Cup game. Every player in that league acts as if they got shot by a sniper in order to get the fouls. You can see this in abundance already in the NBA, and it's only because the officials will call fouls based on player reactions as opposed to if they actually saw the foul occur. Clever teams and players will play to these tendencies, and before you know it you have an entire team of guys flopping all over the court.

    Just wanted to clarify that because I don't believe in the whole David Stern is the man behind the curtain nonsense, but you could get that from reading my prior post if you wanted to.

  12. Gil Meriken Says:

    JP - Instead of looking at the specific calls, I'm simply advocating looking at the big picture, which shows that the Celtics foul more often than 90% of the other teams in the league. Combine that with the Lakers being the second least fouling team, and it should not be that surprising to see a large foul disparity when the two teams meet (The free throw disparity requires a more in-depth look to account for the bonus).

    While the specific calls may be debatable, it's like saying "I got a ticket for only going 75 in a 65mph zone". But if you're speeding more of the time, you're more likely to get a ticket for any infraction, just as if you're fouling more, you're more likely to get called for even a debatable foul (I'm assuming that with more fouls, there are also more debatable fouls).

  13. JP Says:

    #12

    I agree with you that Boston fouls more, but doesn't that really support my contention that the interpretation of what is or isn't a foul is swayed by the "reputation" of one team over another? Isn't this exactly the sort of subjectivity that should NOT be present when officiating a game in an unbiased way?

    So, if I were a frequent speeder (and I am by the way), I would be more prone to getting tickets for sure. If I were driving close to the speed limit and were being judged by a police officer who knew I was a frequent speeder, and who can subjectively interpret the speed I am traveling, then it would be ok to give me a ticket for going 59 in a 60 if the police officer thought I was going faster? How is this acceptable? This is the reason why a police officer needs to have a radar reading unless he wants the ticket to be thrown out in traffic court, because his own interpretation isn't enough.

    So, if Derek Fisher shoots a contested shot and doesn't get fouled, yet flails his arms and legs out as if he did and the officials call the foul based on reaction, this is acceptable because the Celtics foul more than most other teams? If you take the same scenario, but eliminate the chance that the player will get free throws, then I'm fine with this outcome, but if you award two possible points for good acting and the other team loses by two points, then I have a problem with it because this is not what the game is supposed to be about, but it most certainly is these days.

    Neil's analysis revealed that the Lakers shot dramatically more free throws than they perhaps should have. Patrick raised the question that this was perhaps related to Boston being in the penalty earlier than normal, and that is an excellent point. The problem is that you would then have to analyze each and every foul called to get them into the penalty, and that subjectivity is the heart of the problem. How can anyone know for sure what is or isn't a valid foul that made Boston get into the penalty earlier? That is all based upon the interpretation of the officials, and that really is the major point of contention.

  14. Jason J Says:

    Great work, Neil.

  15. Gil Meriken Says:

    #13 I am definitely not saying that the refs' judgments should be swayed because of the reputation of a team or player.

    I'm saying that you would not expect a team that fouls often to stop fouling. In the long run, they will simply commit more fouls.

    From the regular season we can get a good handle on which teams actually foul more than other teams (unless you would say that the whole of the regular season is also biased against the Celtics and the Jazz).

    Of course this would not hold up in a court of law, just because you broke the law multiple times does not mean you did it in any specific case, but we aren't talking about the law here.

    I'm just surprised that the result of a foul disparity would be such a shock. It could be "how" they were called of course, I understand that, but what's more likely, that a fouling team got called for fouls, or there is some bias towards certain teams? Well, I guess that's what we're arguing. It seems to me that the foul discrepancy is a red herring of sorts because the Celtics lost. They fouled much more than other teams and still accumulated a winning record and got to the Finals.

  16. Gil Meriken Says:

    #10 "Kobe shot 15 FTA, yet I only remember him attacking the rim less than four times in the entire game."

    Just focusing on the Kobe-drawn fouls, not addressing you other points, which are still valid.

    There were only 7 fouls called for Kobe, so if he attacked the rim 4 times, that would be more than half of the calls.

    15FTA, it's not as sinister as it sounds. Here is each one of the fouls that Kobe drew.

    1Q
    Kobe fouled by Ray Allen in Act of shooting (the same call that was wrongly called an offensive foul on Kobe in Game 2, where Kobe spins and Ray Allen ducks his head into the impact zone) 2FT
    2Q
    Kobe fouled by Kevin Garnett - definitely a drive by Bryant who actively sought the contact from KG, who was well inside the no-charge circle, 2FT
    3Q
    Kobe fouled by Rasheed Wallace, I don't remember this one, but if it's on Sheed, it's probably Kobe driving, but I have no idea 2FT
    4Q
    Kobe fouled by Ray Allen on three point attempt, this is a call that happens all the time, where the defender reaches in and gets caught with his hand inside the swinging arms of the shooter 3FT

    Kobe fouled by Glen Davis as Kobe gets defensive rebound 2FT (penalty)

    Kobe fouled by Paul Pierce in air on what looks like a dunk attempt. Kobe goes agressive to the rim on this one. 2FT

    Kobe fouled by Rasheed Wallace in air as he drives, Rasheed inside no-charge circle 2FTs

    So of the 7 fouls Kobe drew, here are types: 1 post up foul, 1 3pt foul, 1 loose ball foul, 3 driving fouls, and 1 foul I don't know, but I suspect is driving.

  17. JP Says:

    #15

    I don't think you're quite getting my point. I agree that the Celtics foul more than most other teams. I also agree that the Celtics should have more fouls called on them than the Lakers over a seven games series, within reason. But Neil's analysis kind of proves that the FTA disparity might not have been within reason.

    The two games where there was the largest discrepancy were Game 2 (which Boston won), and Game 7 (which Boston loss). The point I am trying to drive home, but am failing apparently, is that if you take free throws completely out of the equation, but leave everything else the same, you would get a much truer sense of which team has performed better. But if you add them back in to said close series, you can greatly alter the outcome whether through ineptitude, random chance, or something far more sinister because a bad call can directly affect scoring in the NBA via free throws.

    If two teams are very equally matched, as was the NBA finals this year, then you would expect to see a tight margin in point differential between the two teams, especially as the series goes longer and the sample size gets larger...given, that seven games is hardly a huge sample, but that's as good as it can get. In this scenario, free throw differential becomes an issue if the nature of calling fouls falls into a gray area at all. It is this fact that breeds the conspiracies that abound about why the NBA is "rigged", and is a big reason why a criminal like Tim Donaghy can still hang around beyond the limits of his "15 minutes" of fame should allow. I remember a study done somewhere, that indicated how LeBron James doesn't get enough fouls called on him to a statistically impossible point. If I can find that experiment, I'll post it, but if people are doing these experiments at all, doesn't that mean that something is inherently wrong?

    If there is one part of the game that can be manipulated via its subjectivity, it is officiating. My point is that the officiating isn't rigged for one team or another for some grandiose scheme of David Stern, rather, I am saying that the officiating is inconsistently subjective at best and downright horrible at worst. When you have this scenario, you allow all of the ridiculous conjecture to occur, and the game and it's fans suffer for it. Do you really want a league where an NBA ref can: A)challenge a player to a fight, then throw him out of a game (Joey Crawford-Tim Duncan), B)throw a key player off of a team in the middle of an important playoff game because you forgot that you gave him a double technical earlier (Ed F. Rush-Kendrick Perkins), C)throw a ball at a fan who was complaining about your calls in a game (Joe DeRosa)?

    These guys keep interjecting themselves into the game, get fined and or suspended, and then keep doing this sort of thing, and this isn't a problem? A good referee is one that you don't notice, not one that engages in this ridiculous behavior and lets their own personal biases affect their actions, nor should these people be allowed to continue. If you were in a 9-5 job in the real world, you'd probably be fired for actions like throwing a ball at someone, or challenging them to a fight, but the NBA seems to protect these people for whatever reason. I want to know why? Do they not understand that this seriously hurts the credibility of their game?

    There is a real problems with the NBA officiating, either in the officials themselves, or in the way that the rules are constructed, or both, but you'd be hard pressed to not find someone who thinks that the NBA is one of the worst officiated games in all of sports. The argument to this is that professional basketball is a tough game to officiate, and I say that is a fair point. But, another question to ask is "What has the NBA done to fix this perception and/or reality?" The answer to that is: nothing. When the Donaghy scandal happened, everyone expected huge changes in the officiating, as well as transparency. So what did David Stern do, he hired an ex-military guy to run the show from behind, and who has not been seen or heard from by anyone that I know of. And really, has anything changed from pre-Donaghy to post-Donaghy? Not if you've watched any of the games. They still have 74 year old Dick Bavetta running around trying to keep up with arguably the greatest athletes in the world, and expect to see all of the plays as they happen in real time?

    If we eliminated free throws from the equation (for example), then the worst harm that any official could do to disrupt a game's final score would be to foul out a player, but that is it. The fact that there was an actual referee from this league who has gambled and purportedly fixed games, and the fact that nothing was really done about it in NBA circles, is like pouring gasoline on a fire for all of the people who won't watch the NBA because they think it is little more than pro-wrestling. And that is a detriment to all of us who have remained loyal fans over the years. There is just far too much of a subjective influence on the NBA game, and there is far too little done to rectify it.

  18. Jason J Says:

    Gil - All of that is true, but in this particular post, Neil shows:

    "so we would expect L.A. to take (.259 / .263) * .285 = .281 FTA/poss in a series with the Celts; instead, they took .335 FTA/poss. On the other side, we would have expected Boston to have .244 FTA/poss against the Lakers, and in reality they had .249.

    This result is unexpected -- Boston essentially had just as many FTA/poss as we would have expected based on team tendencies, but Los Angeles' rate of FTA/poss is dramatically higher than we would have expected. However, neither team's rate of fouls per possession was unexpected, so the only real unexpected outcome of the Finals in the fouling department was the number of free throws Los Angeles shot per foul drawn."

    Does that mean that there was bias involved? Absolutely not. Do Boston fans deserve a giant pillow to cry into? Well the Celtics did win a title as recently as 2008, so no again. But the point that is being made is that the FTA discrepancy is significantly out of proportion with what should have been expected. Shockingly out of proportion? I don't know. But that would be tough for any franchise's fans to merrily waive off in a 7 game series where the final was decided by 4 points.

  19. JP Says:

    #16

    Ok, so can you definitely say that each one of those fouls would be called a foul every time? The fact that the game can fluctuate from tightly called, to loosely called, from game to game, from quarter to quarter, from ref to ref doesn't make you suspect that the fouls called are highly subjective? Would any of those fouls be called in the first three quarters when it was fairly obvious that they were letting them play and calling a much looser game?

    Wouldn't this be far easier to take if it didn't relate directly to scoring opportunities for Kobe? How many of those free throws did he make in the fourth quarter out of those examples you have indicated. There would only have to be 2-3 questionable calls in his favor to potentially influence the final score of this game, doesn't this make sense? If instead of shooting free throws, the Lakers take the ball from out of bounds, wouldn't this effectively take the subjective nature out of the final score and possibly change it entirely? By doing this, you take the referees decision out of the final score, and you let the players earn it from the field where there can be no dispute whatsoever.

  20. JP Says:

    Neil, would it be possible to calculate a standard deviation of FTA/POSS?

  21. Gil Meriken Says:

    #15, #19

    I agree with all of the following:

    Officiating can be bad.

    Officiating influences the outcome of a game.

    A few calls can swing the outcome of a game.

    But taking "free throws out" is not something I agree with, because free throws are the directly penalty of fouling. There many benefit to physicality and fouling that I haven't fully explored - the refs can't or won't call everything, you plant a seed in the offensive player's mind that he may get fouled without a call, intimidation, etc. . There must be something to counter-act the strategy of playing such aggressive defense.

    I agree with your examples of bad officiating, too. But, if you really want to see bad officiating, go to any high school game or even a rec league game. It's all relative. These are very good refs compared to the refs even on the college level. I'm not sure how you would change the quality of the refs - I'm assuming every ref would like to make it to the NBA, so these must be the best of the best (a big assumption, I know).

    These arguments don't have direct application to the Lakers-Celtics Finals - the officials are not "ruining" the game, although they may be ruining it for fans of the losing team looking to place blame.

  22. JP Says:

    #21

    I was using the omission of free throws to prove my point(s). I don't know if it would be a good idea to remove FT's altogether, but it was the one thing I could think of at the time to isolate the impact that they do have in an NBA game or series. Although, I don't think that not giving free throws would be a detriment to the offensive player, because they still get a possession, and the defensive player can still foul out of the game. The disqualification is the direct penalty to the foul and doesn't impact the score directly. If there is a better way to assess penalties that don't directly impact a final score, than I would be open to hearing them...but is the NBA?

    I know two referees personally, one high school, and one college. They both make far more credible calls than those I see in the NBA. The way that you counteract bad officials is to make every decision a binary one similar to what the NFL attempts to do. It's either a foul it isn't, and if you keep it consistent, then the players will adjust much like they do now when the calls are inconsistent.

    I think that the NBA officiating are the single biggest detriment to the NBA game, and it's not even close. I'm also quite sure that it has a huge effect on any game or series where it's a close decision, so yes, it certainly does have something to do with an entire Finals series where the outcome was effectively decided by four points. That doesn't mean that the Lakers wouldn't have won it without the favorable situation that they had, because they are certainly good enough to do so, but you honestly can't say definitively that they didn't win because they got an advantage from officiating...and that takes away from what the Lakers have accomplished just a little doesn't it?

  23. Jason J Says:

    JP - If you take free throws out of the game, it would give too great an edge to a team nursing a lead at the end. You couldn't get the ball back by fouling, and if you did happen to get the ball, they could just foul on every shot attempt, force you to take the ball out of bounds, and effectively run out the clock on defense.

  24. JP Says:

    #23

    Excellent points, but I don't think that is a worse situation than losing a game from a bad call or calls. If you can't get a basket because the other team is fouling you then I think most teams can live with that instead of having their fates decided by officials.

    Maybe another approach would be to make the penalty situation after seven team fouls, and not award free throws on shooting fouls, just an extra possession instead with a game clock reset within one minute, or maybe allow only one shot instead of two or three. Like I said, I'm not sure of the solution to making it so the subjectivity can be reduced or eliminated, but I know that making it so that a bad call doesn't affect the final score of a game as directly as it is currently is the way to go.

    There are always going to be bad calls, but it should be possible to minimize their impact somehow if you can't just get better officials or tighten the rules somehow.

  25. Gil Meriken Says:

    OK, been digging through the play-by-plays.

    I wanted to see the effect of the penalty situation, so I looked through each game to determine how many times the teams fouled after being in the penalty. Including the foul that put the team in the bonus, each foul after would be penalized with two free throws.

    Here's what I found (please feel free to verify, I did the data entry manually):

    Boston was in the penalty 15 times with an average of 3:26 left to play in the quarter. Including the foul that put them in the bonus, they fouled 49 times after that.

    LA was in the penalty 18 times with an average of 2:38 left to play. They fouled 36 times after that.

    This would account for a difference of (49-36)*2= 72 free throws.

    But not every foul after the penalty was a non-shooting foul, so to distinguish between the different types of penalty fouls, I put each in a separate category (shooting fouls, bonus fouls, and intentional).

    The result was surprising - Bostons splits were 28 shooting fouls, 18 bonus fouls, and 3 intentional. LA's were 12 shooting, 17 bonus, and 7 intentional fouls.

    So it would appear that Boston was the beneficiary of the bonus situation more than the Lakers as the Celtics got to the line 24 times on non-shooting calls, versus the Lakers 21 times on non-shooting calls.

    I split them out, because I'm assuming that with a shooting foul the player would have gotten two shots regardless of the penalty situation.

    So that is interesting - the Celtics may have been called for more shooting fouls than against other teams, I don't know (that would take another tedious project to determine the shooting/non-shooting split of FTA), but I'm still sticking with my take that the Celtics just foul a lot, regardless of who they play.

  26. Gil Meriken Says:

    Hi Neil,

    After you posted your table of fouls per possession in the comments of the last post, I set about writing a post at silverscreenandroll.com, which I just published now.

    I copied your table there with my own Laker-tinted comments (with appropriate linkage). Let me know if you object to my use of your table, and I will gladly delete it, leaving just a link to your blog along with my own take on the subject.

    Thanks.

  27. JP Says:

    #25

    Gil, I think that this would make the FTA/POSS disparity even more striking in Neil's analysis. If the bonus situation was more or less even, and maybe even favored the Celtics in your example, doesn't that mean that the FTA/POSS disparity has to be focused primarily on shooting fouls called against the Celtics?

    Basically, this indicates that between your analysis, and Neil's, that the Celtics got called for an inordinately high amount of shooting fouls throughout the series since L.A.'s FTA/POSS was 19.2% (.335 FTA/POSS realized as opposed to expected .281 FTA/POSS) higher than expectation, correct?

    By the way, nice job on the data...must've been a pain to compile.

  28. Gil Meriken Says:

    #27 Yes it does indicate that the Celtics were called for many shooting fouls (by the way, I didn't include offensive fouls, as those do not count against the penalty).

    I'd like to have the time/resources to go back to regular season data and compare the ratio of shooting fouls at any time to non-shooting-in-the-bonus fouls. Maybe someone has this data already?

  29. JP Says:

    #28

    But the relevant question really is: what could cause an approximate 19.2% increase in shooting fouls against the Celtics for that series? Which is why I asked Neil if it's possible to get some kind of standard deviation metric. If that 19.2% number is well within standard deviation, than all of this discussion is kind of moot really.

  30. Gil Meriken Says:

    #29

    Regarding the 19.2% increase in shooting fouls: How do we know what the baseline from the regular season is for shooting fouls (as distinguished from non-shooting-in-the-bonus fouls)?

  31. JP Says:

    #30

    I'm not sure what you're asking regarding baseline from the regular season. Here's what we know:

    "Boston committed .240 PF/Poss during the regular-season in a league where the average was .223; the Lakers' opponents committed .227 PF/Poss. Therefore, we would expect Boston to commit (.240 / .223) * .227 = .244 PF/Poss against Los Angeles, and in reality they committed .291 PF/Poss... But before you get conspiratorial, consider that the Lakers, who could have expected to commit .219 PF/Poss vs. Boston, actually committed .261 PF/Poss -- so the officials actually called more fouls on everyone. If you scale those numbers back down from the Finals-wide average of .276 to the regular-season league average of .223, the numbers would be .236 for Boston and .211 for L.A., which are actually very much in keeping with the .244 and .219 figures we would expect from their regular-season numbers."

    Doesn't this establish the baseline that the Celtics foul more than the Lakers during the regular season? Based on these baselines from Neil's original post, the Celtics foul approximately 11% more than the Lakers and about 9% more than the league average.

    "That's only half the story, though -- free throws are where the conspiracy buffs really make their case, since the Lakers shot 51 more FTA than the Celtics did despite Boston taking more shots in the immediate basket area. Using the same methodology outlined above, except with FTA/Poss instead of PF/Poss, we see that Los Angeles took .259 FTA/Poss in a league where average was .263. Boston conceded .285 opponent FTA/Poss during the season, so we would expect L.A. to take (.259 / .263) * .285 = .281 FTA/poss in a series with the Celts; instead, they took .335 FTA/poss. On the other side, we would have expected Boston to have .244 FTA/poss against the Lakers, and in reality they had .249.

    This result is unexpected -- Boston essentially had just as many FTA/poss as we would have expected based on team tendencies, but Los Angeles' rate of FTA/poss is dramatically higher than we would have expected. However, neither team's rate of fouls per possession was unexpected, so the only real unexpected outcome of the Finals in the fouling department was the number of free throws Los Angeles shot per foul drawn."

    So according to Neil, Boston more or less matched their FTA/poss numbers, but since neither team's foul rate per possession was unexpected, then there is an anomaly with the number of FTA/poss on the Laker's side of the equation. In fact, the Lakers shot approximately 19.2% more FTA/poss than what was expected.

    Since you've broken down the penalty situation for each team, we learned that during the Finals anyway (since we don't have this breakdown for every game of the season for either teams) the meat of the disparity falls on shooting fouls. This means that the Lakers most likely shot more than 19.2% in FTA/poss on shooting fouls since the non-shooting fouls actually slightly favored Boston. What other baseline data are you looking for?

  32. The Big Bear Says:

    NBA officiating is (and has been for years) star oriented. If Kobe misses he goes to the line even if no foul has occurred. If no call is made Kobe yells and throws his arms in the air and no tech is called. If an injured Perkins opens his mouth or is standing because he's more comfortable that bald-headed fool who was suspended last year threatens
    him with tech. If Sheed runs away he gets teched. Kennedy is known for his negative history
    with Doc and is still assigned the final series. The blame goes much higher than the indiv-
    idual officials.

  33. polly Says:

    It's so funny how subjective this all is. The game 7 I saw had refs swallowing their whistles on Boston fouls, esp. early on, desperately trying to keep them in it, knowing full well that if Sheed and Davis picked up fouls the game would be over. Newsflash: Boston has made it their strategy to foul a lot. They foul a lot. They esp. foul a lot when they're tired. Newsflash #2: Boston played valiantly, and lost. It was a great game. End of story.

  34. Gil Meriken Says:

    #16

    Responding to my own comment - just looked at the game tape and the foul in third quarter that Kobe drew on Rasheed was indeed a driving foul.

    So, of seven fouls called for Kobe that resulted in FTs, four were driving to the hoop.

  35. Gil Meriken Says:

    #31

    You're right. I still want to see what the pattern has been in the previous Celtics-Lakers matches, I'll take a look at the four regular season games they played in the past two seasons. At this point, it's just for entertainment purposes.

  36. Gil Meriken Says:

    #31

    Another point to think of is IF you believe that the refs selected to call more shooting fouls intentionally or subconsciously or for whatever reason, it is strange that they also ignore enough non-shooting fouls to make the total foul amounts within reason. Not impossible, but there would have to be a decision or some kind of recognition on some level to ignore non-shooting fouls and replace them with shooting fouls.

  37. Ray Says:

    I'm not sure there's any way to measure this, but I think at least part of the FTA disparity in the fourth quarter of Game 7 owed to the exhaustion of the Celtics. Without Perk and with it being Game 7 and all, you had four players in their mid-30s ridden for heavy minutes. They were flat-out tired, which meant diminished coordination and increased desperation. This is just something that stood out to me, and I wonder if the numbers can show any kind of relationship between age or minutes played and the rate of fouls committed. Not necessarily making any kind of request here, just legitimately curious.

    By the way, first time poster, long time reader... keep up the great work everybody!

  38. Paul Pierce Says:

    #36

    Gil, that's a very good point. It's not like the referees can physically convert non-shooting fouls into shooting fouls. The finding is that 1. both teams fouled about the same as reg. season tendencies and 2. Celtics committed more shooting fouls.

    That means the refs, have to take non-shooting fouls and convert them into shooting fouls, which is not rather easy to do. It's one thing for a ref to take some sort of minor collision and call that a foul, but if a player isn't in the paint or isn't even in the act of shooting, it's not like the ref can suddenly turn that into a shooting foul.

    Furthermore, an argument can also be made that non-shooting fouls are more subjective than shooting fouls. If someone shoots and is hacked that's an obvious foul. There's no reason that a non-shooting foul would be less easy to influence than a shooting foul. If that's the case, then Boston was actually called for fewer non-shooting fouls than their reg. season numbers would suggest (since they were called for same number of fouls, more shooting, so less non-shooting). Since non-shooting fouls are more subjective (reach-in fouls are very hard to assess, off-the-ball and loose-ball fouls are more ticky tacky), one could argue that the refs were actually trying to help the celtics - since Shooting fouls are harder for the refs to affect, the refs resorted to giving them more non-shooting fouls.

    OR maybe what happens in the regular season has little correlation with what happens in the NBA finals much less a game 7, and these statistics are meaningless. The Celtics had a different defensive game plan against the Lakers than they do the regular season. If you watched the Celtics during the regular season, you wouldn't have marked them getting past the second round. It doesn't take much brains to realize that the Celtics team in the NBA finals is not the same Celtics team during the regular season, and along with that difference is most likely their propensity to foul, whether it be shooting or non-shooting.

  39. Paul Pierce Says:

    #37 Seriously, much smoke has been made of the FT disparity. Let's face it, Kendrik Perkins was out, my team was tired, and obviously we weren't the same team in the playoffs as we were in the regular season. If we played the Finals like we did the regular season, we would have lost in 5. That Doc got us to increase our defensive intensity during the playoffs and the Finals was a good thing, and along with increased defensive intensity is the propensity to commit shooting fouls.

  40. Paul Pierce Says:

    Now that I've spent time addressing these allegations, let's see if I can get that max deal from Danny Ainge. I didn't opt out of 17 mill for nothing.

  41. Gil Meriken Says:

    OK ... I keep going down further down the rabbit hole here ... and learning more (useless?) info ... I took a look a the regular season matchups between the Celtics and the Lakers, and the Feb 18 game in LA (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/playbyplay?gameId=300218013&period=3)left me befuddled because the Lakers had 20 fouls, the Celtics had 18 fouls, yet the Lakers took 25 free throws compared to Boston's 13.

    Some of those were offensive calls, and only a few were due to the penalty. I decided to track the shooting fouls versus non-shooting, and came up with Lakers committing 8 shooting fouls and 8 non-shooting (the other four must have been offensive fouls). Boston was 11 shooting, 7 non.

    So if the Lakers fouled the Celtics 8 times, so why did Boston only get 13 FTA? What gives? Well the sharper ones of you probably already figured it out: Boston had 5 and-ones! Plus one technical foul shot.

    So the fact that Boston had so many continuation fouls where they made the basket created the discrepancy in FTAs.

    Now, I wonder if that trend continued in the Finals ...

  42. Robert Stevens Says:

    Does the Possession part of the FTA/Poss stat take into account offensive rebounds? Does each offensive rebound count as an extra possession, even if it's just a tip? By my math, the Lakers had 21 more offensive rebounds than the Celtics, which would give them possibly 21 more opportunities to be fouled either during the rebound or later in the possession. The Lakers also had 11 more defensive rebounds than the Celtics, which would be 11 fewer opportunities for the Celtics to have a foul committed on them. I would think this would be taken care of in the possession stat, but I'm just throwing it out there. Common sense (to me anyway) would say that offensive rebounds can produce more than the average number of fouls since there are a lot of players in a close area going after the ball or putback.

  43. Anon x 2 Says:

    As someone mentioned, Boston tired out. In game 7, this was the reason for the discrepancy. If anything, Boston got 8 undeserved FTs in that game.

    6 in thesecond quarter were on non-shooting fouls after Lakers were in the penalty. Pierce fouled on a loose ball where Fisher didn't touch him. Same with Ray Allen and Fish. A play where Paul flopped after trying to go around Bynum off a screen and roll was shameful.

    In the 2nd half Ray Allen committed a clear offensive foul on Kobe but instead Kobe got he foul and Ray got the shots.

    I thought Boston was lucky the FT disparity was that close, quite honestly.

    They tired out in the 4th and all they could do was hack. Boston didn't attack in the 4th much, either.

    One thing important to note is the Lakers didn't play a ton of games with Kobe-Gasol-Bynum starting lineup. I wonder how much this affected their FT numbers. Their numbers were lower this year than before, and with both Kobe and Pau missing significant time, I think this was a key component of that.

    What were their rates when all 3 started? I recall either last year or the year prior LA was at the top of getting to the charity stripe.

  44. Datuca Says:

    JP,
    I think you are wrong is assuming that NBA is about getting the best possible product out there. Its about getting a product out that would sell the most.

    If there were no FT disparity, would we be still talking about the finals so much? Probabily not. And thats why NBA leaves officiating to be so subjective. It gives people something to write/talk about for a long period of time, which actually benefits NBA more than it hurts them.

    Is that the right thing to do, nope.

  45. Jason J Says:

    Gil - I don't know how much we've actually accomplished here, but I want to commend you for the sheer effort.

    Boston fans are still going to feel that they didn't quite get a fair shake in the fourth quarter of game 7, and Lakers fans are still going to feel like they won fair and square. Conspiracy buffs and NBA detractors are still going to hate, and everybody else already forgot about the details of the series, crowned Kobe king of the season, and has moved onto the LeBrontastic off-season plots.

    But I've found all of this fascinating.

  46. JP Says:

    #44

    Hey Datuca,

    I think that you are correct that the NBA is mostly into this business for sales, but I question how leaving the officiating issue helps their cause. The reason why we are talking about this now, is because I had asked Neil if he could see any kind of statistical anomalies in the free throw data because to the naked eye, the game took a rather large turn in game flow from the first three quarters when compared to the fourth. It looked to becomes a much more tightly officiated game in the fourth quarter where the Lakers took more free throws in that period than the Celtics had in the entire game. It just appeared "off" to me, and I wanted to see of the numbers showed anything.

    All of the casual fans, and a vast majority of NBA fans that didn't have a rooting interest in either team are fixated on the "Lebronapalooza" starting tomorrow, but only those who have interest in these teams, or a greater than passing interest in basketball in general, are reading this thread. I don't think that the subjective nature of the NBA is to their benefit really because if anything, this thread is detracting from potentially the most interesting free agency period to date.

  47. JP Says:

    #43

    "I thought Boston was lucky the FT disparity was that close, quite honestly."

    This is my point. What you think are fouls aren't always what everyone else thinks are fouls, or even what the officials think are fouls, because fouls are a gray area that are highly subjective.

    Because of free throws are awarded for these subjective fouls, this subjective quality of NBA officiating can, and does affect games, and is exacerbated in close ones. Now the countervailing argument to this has always been "They call it bad both ways, and it evens out in the end", but how do we know?

    Neil has uncovered a statistical oddity where "Los Angeles' rate of FTA/poss is dramatically higher than we would have expected." I for one would just like to understand if this is due to officiating, or if it is something more player related.

  48. JP Says:

    #41

    Gil, I counted all of the continuation free throws throughout the NBA Finals and here is what I came up with:

    BOS - 15
    LAL - 17

    I'll try and count up all of the technicals in a bit, but I'm sure that is far into LA's favor.

  49. JP Says:

    #48

    I came up with the following technical FTA counts in the Finals:

    BOS - 2
    LAL - 5

    So this, combined with the the continuation fouls accounts for five extra FTA's for L.A. I can do a back of the napkin estimate and say that if LAL's FTA/poss was .335 and that allowed them to get 51 more FTA's than Boston over the length of the series. Then it should account for approximately:

    5/51 = .098 (or 9.8%) of the .335 FTA/poss totals = .335 * .098 = .03283

    This would approximately bring LA's .335 FTA/poss number to: .335 - .03283 = .30217 FTA/poss

    So if the expected value was (according to Neil's numbers) .281 FTA/poss, we still have a discrepancy. How big of a discrepancy is unknown since we don't have any kind of standard deviation numbers.

  50. Gil Meriken Says:

    #49

    Thanks. Short story, and basically what Neil said in the first place (after all that work!): the shooting foul discrepancy was unusual, but the total foul discrepancy was not.

    It is what it is.

    But the prior series give the best example of what I am trying to get at:

    In the BOS-CLE series, over 6 games the total foul count was BOS 163, CLE 136 (please do verify, I had to add them up from the box scores) and the FTA count was BOS 175, CLE 210.

    That is a 20% foul discrepancy AND a 20% FT discrepancy, yet nobody was upset about the officiating (well, I'm sure someone was, but it wasn't as big a deal), because Boston won that series.

    It seems that only in the face of losing that the fouls, and in turn, the officiating, are broadly cited as a reason for losing.

  51. Gil Meriken Says:

    #50

    Last edit: I promise, these are my final words; I realize that you can't cite fouls as a reason for losing if you win the series, but they become blown out of proportion when the team you are rooting for loses, and this happens with every fan base.

  52. Stevie Says:

    One thing that seems to be overlooked is whether or not the Lakers knew about the Celtics tendencies and used it to their advantage.

    The stats for fouling would be just as available to the Lakers as they are here. And as the Laker scouts are getting paid big to provide information for coaches to use anything to their advantage, I would expect the Lakers (and Celtics) to change their game plan.

    What I'm getting at is that the statistics point to how the teams played in the past which can be a good indicator of play in the future. However, statistics don't dictate that a team will play like they did before. If you believe that Jackson is a coaching genius, would it be difficult to assume that he would create a game plan that takes advantage of the Celtics tendencies? And yes you would expect Rivers to do the same. Then it becomes a question of which team is better able to execute the game plan.

    I personally would expect to see a team do things a bit differently in the Finals depending if they can impose their will upon the other team. The West is soft and uptempo (stereotype) and the East is hardnosed, grind it out. Up until the Finals they can play one style for different opponents. But in the Finals, you have to impose your style or counter the one you're playing against.

    All I'm saying is that stats don't take into account that people are involved and can behave differently than stats indicate.

  53. JP Says:

    #51

    Probably the last post for me as well. You are still really missing my central point which I'll state for the last time:

    Fouls are subjective. They can influence a game or a series in general, but they become a larger influence on the result of a game/series the closer the teams match up.

    Because of this, a seven game series can end upon the whims of the officials (if you are a conspiracy believer which I am not), or on the ineptness of the officials (of which I wholeheartedly agree with). I wish this could be fixed, but it appears as though the NBA doesn't want to.

    So essentially, a seven games series that ends with a four point differential can equate to something of a coin flip given the variance of expectation that the subjective officiating adds to the equation, which irks me a little because the final say in this championship may not be determined by the players, but by the referees. I would think that this is a large problem that would upset more people, but I guess it isn't as long as you are on the winning end of it, which is what I gather on this forum as well as your blog.

    You reference to Cleveland vs Boston doesn't hold water because those two teams weren't all that evenly matched in the playoffs. This is obvious if you watched the games...Boston was simply a better team in the playoffs than Cleveland in the same way that L.A. was simply a better team than Phoenix, Utah, and OKC. Going back to my central thesis that:

    Fouls influence the outcome of games/series that are closely matched.

  54. JP Says:

    #52

    Stevie,

    I think the Lakers were better at playing to the referees tendencies, which is what I really believe is the source of the FTA differential. If you notice, the Lakers went into super-flop mode in every game that Joey Crawford and Joe DeRosa officiated. Those two guys call games on the tighter side of the spectrum, particularly Crawford...who calls it super tight usually in the first quarter and the last, from all of the games I've seen.

    If I can see these tendencies just from watching games, and consulting a few gambling websites that contain stats on officials, then it would be reasonable to believe that the teams are also scouting for this as well, and admittedly the Lakers were better prepared in this regard. Whether or not this is good for the game, is an issue that I've been trying to convey to everyone to no avail. Playing to garner favorable calls from officials is not better for the game than just playing basketball. Just watch any FIFA game and you can see where this trend will lead you.

  55. Walter Says:

    The difference can be explained by two assumptions that Neil used (perhaps without thinking about them) that are not valid.

    First: By using the regular season team numbers, Neil is assuming that the distribution of possesions used by each player in the finals will be identical to the distribution during the regular season. This is obviously false.

    I took a look at FTA/MIN for each player (I would love to use possessions but they aren't provided on this website ) as a proxy for FTA/Poss. Looking at the Lakers it is obvious that Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol lead the team by a wide margin in FTA/min. During the regular season they played only 71% and 61% of the minutes each game (partly due to injury) but in the Finals they played 86% and 87% of the minutes. Obviously with Kobe and Gasol playing more minutes they are likely to earn more foul shots as well. In addition to just minutes, Kobe's usage rate was higher in the finals than in the regular season as he took an even larger load of the offense so the expected free throws for the Lakers would likely be even higher yet.
    Using just FTA/MIN and the minute distributions from the regular season and the finals I calculated that the Lakers would have expected a 8.8% increase in FT/MIN just due to the shift of minutes between the players. Similarly, looking at PF/MIN the Lakers would have expected a decrease of 4.1% in the number of fouls called per minute do to the shift in minutes between the players. Also, given that Kobe and Gasol's usage increased in the finals these numbers are likely understated.

    Second: The team's numbers don't contemplate match-ups (Neil has no way to account for this anyway). Looking at the FTA/MIN by player between the regular season and the playoffs some interesting numbers emerge. Kobe saw only a slight uptick per minute (probably due again to using more possessions per minute), but Pau Gasol saw a huge increase and the rest of the Lakers were close to their season average (even slightly down). Gasol saw quite a bit of time against Perkins and Wallace and both are significantly above league average in fouling. It isn't a surprise to see Gasol get more FT's when going against those guys.
    On the other side of the ball, the two Celtics who suffered the biggest decline in FTA/Min were Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo. Pierce was matched up against one of the best players in the league at defending him. Artest has the strength to prevent the post-up and quickness to move his feet. We would expect to see Pierce's FTA/Min drop against certainly an above average defender. It also shouldn't be too surprising that Rondo saw his FT's drop as well. I don't see too many teams having the guy guarding Rondo play 10 feet off of him and it is tough to get a foul from 10 feet away. Also, as the series went on I thought Rondo became hesitant and afraid of contact because of his inability to hit a free throw when he did get to the line (26% for the series).

    Given the change in minutes which put the Lakers best players at drawing FT's on the court more and the match-ups that limited Boston's top two guys in FTA during the season, is the free throw descrepancy really that surprising? I don't think so.

  56. Anon x 2 Says:

    Neil has uncovered a statistical oddity where "Los Angeles' rate of FTA/poss is dramatically higher than we would have expected." I for one would just like to understand if this is due to officiating, or if it is something more player related."

    The problem is the analysis is based on league wide stuff and doesn't tell us anything about matchups. That's the thing about sports is that all the stats league wide can never account for matchups.

    And as I said, game 7's discrepancy seemed plainly obvious as a result of Boston tiring out.

    Personally, I thought the officiating favored Boston slightly more than L.A. throughout the series, though not purposely.

    I agree with you that officiating in the NBA is a problem. Inconsistency, age, what I perceive as grudges, and other things play a factor. And it sucks.

    But just as easily as you say a "4 point margin," i can point out that L.A. seemed to be robbed in game 2 and had they won that one the series is probably over then and there. It is what it is. Officials can change outcomes; what is most important is that they don't intentionally change outcomes. Incompetence should then be rooted out.

    Anyway, the NBA Finals was at times reffed too tightly, but I don't think it heavily favored either team much (with the exception of game 3 and Kobe being taken out).

  57. Neil Paine Says:

    #55. That's a good point about the distribution of possessions being more concentrated among the high-usage players in the playoffs. But as far as matchups go, you can account for that the same way I did (comparing one team's fouling tendency to the opponent's tendency to be fouled), you would just use amended numbers to account for more possessions being used by high-FTA/poss players.

  58. Walter Says:

    #57. Neil, I agree that you did make an adjustment for match-ups on a team level, but what I was getting at is match-ups on an individual level. The Lakers putting Kobe on Rondo and having him stay 10 feet off of him is prime example. I doubt the league on average did this same thing to Rondo and this type of scenario would not be present in either the Lakers or Celtics season stastics.

  59. Neil Paine Says:

    Well, first, that's been the book on Rondo for years. Did any team do it as successfully as the Lakers? No. But every team in the league at least knows to try to force Rondo to shoot jumpers... Anyway, the point of what I was saying was that matchups at the the team level are just a combination of a lot of individual matchups. If the Celtics give more playing time to players who draw fouls, and the Lakers give more PT to players who avoid fouling, you can simply create a new team "tendency profile" to reflect that. Every team employs different strategies, but none of those strategies is so much different from the league average that it taints the methodology.

  60. Anon x 2 Says:

    But you're matching things up based on statistics, not how to say this...the way the game was played.

    For instance:

    let's say Bynum is prone to fouling in help situations a lot, and most specifically on point guards and centers who penetrate into the lane looking to attack the basket. I think this is actually reasonable as it happened vs Westbrook, Amar'e, and Deron in the playoffs.

    Now, Bynum's foul numbers dropped big time in the finals? Why?

    A. Garnett never attacked him when matched up and Perkins has been too scared to shoot for 4 months since his wrist injury.

    B. Kobe played so far off Rondo, he almost never got into the paint (outside of fast breaks), so Bynum was rarely in position to take a charge.

    So while Bynum usually fouls little dudes coming into the paint, this rarely happened in the series because of the matchup. League wide number analysis will never figure this out.

    It doesn't "taint" the methodology, but it at least suggest that this could be a situation outside the confidence interval.

    There will also be certain matchups where long term numbers won't matter. Perhaps they're uncommon, but they certainly exist.

    And while many teams play back off Rondo, none played as far back as Kobe and this is because the Lakers are the only team with the inside length and ability to play their taller SG on Rondo. Name me another NBA team that could pull this off? Portland when everyone is healthy, perhaps?

  61. Anon x 2 Says:

    "to take a charge" was meant to be "to take a foul"

  62. Clint Matthews Says:

    This has been a great discussion. We need to account for fatigue when calculating fouls, especially in the NBA Finals. Anyone who has played basketball knows that you are far more likely to foul (especially on the defensive end) when you tire. Throughout the Finals both Boston and LA looked tired. Both teams had played a lot of games and were dealing with injury and fatigue. This was especially true during the second half of Game 7 (by far the most physical game of the entire playoffs). Both teams looked drained in the fourth quarter. Kobe admitted as much after the game. Boston's front court players were especially gassed. Each of them played more than they were used to because of Perkins' injury. A number of the fouls (for both teams) occurred when players were reacting slowly to the ball. Players were reaching and grabbing instead of playing good defense or rebounding cleanly. I think this was especially true of Boston. I think this makes it difficult to make too many assumptions based on this quarter.

  63. loe Says:

    Nothing works better than the eye test. Most of the boston fouls were fouls but in the fourth quarter the refs swallowed the whistle on obvious fouls commited by the Lkaers. Gasol fouls Garnett on almost every shot he takes but becuase he fades away it's easy to miss,but garnett beat gasol to the basket and Gasol fouls him hitting him on the wrist but gets credited with a block, they show the replay and announcers say,hand part of the ball(lol). In real time it was a obvious foulcuz he got beat and garnet had the ball up high, Glenn davis goes to the rim shoots draws lots of contact(body at that ) no foul( this happened numerous times in this game and throughout series no call). That crazy looking play by pierce on Gasol was actually a headsy play cuz the big man (gasol) was dribbling with his head down blocking call on pierce. The whistles went one way in final quarter. They called anything close for LA while ignored the obvious for Boston.

  64. Keith Says:

    I didn't read through all the comments since there are so many but has anybody factored in the issue of teams leading at the end of a close or semi-close game? The team in the lead is going to shoot a lot more free throws when the other team intentionally fouls. This is something else that the statistical analysis might not have accounted for.

  65. Keith Says:

    Following up with my previous comment, one would expect finals games to be tighter than the average regular season game of the top teams in the league. So the issue of fouls at the end of a close games might have some significance for foul and free throw attempt stats.

  66. nimble Says:

    If only Kobe had received the same treatment from refs like MJ DWade and LJames and hell even Durantula..

  67. Dre Says:

    The problem is, L.A. got the early whistle in the 4th qtr (game 7) putting them in the penalty VERY early. It appears that after BOS went up 13 pts, the fouls started going L.A.'s way.

    I'm not sayin'...
    I'm just sayin'...

  68. Abe Lincoln Says:

    Stern fixed the finals and helped LA, its the only way they would have won.

  69. Gasol=cheating Says:

    How can anybody talk about the 4th quarter of Game 7 of the NBA Finals 2010 without talking about Pau Gasol? and I find it odd that nobody brings up Gasol's plays in the 4th qtr.
    Gasol was not whistled for 1 violation in the entire 4th quarter. Gasol knocked two balls out of bounds, travelled twice, charged into Pierce, knocked down Rondo, hit Davis in the head and knocked his head backwards, got a cheap and 1 on the first play of the 4th with Davis, and got another bailout on a play with Garnett, ALL in the 4th qtr.
    Gasol was involved in 10 plays in the 4th quarter, ALL 10 plays gave the ball to the Lakers. ALL 10 PLAYS. Gasol was untouchable in the 4th qtr of Game 7. Gasol was called for nothing, no foul on Gasol, no travel on Gasol, no ball knocked out of bounds by Gasol, no up and down by Gasol, nothing. Absolutely nothing.

    The refs used their whistle 10 TIMES in thie 4th qtr of Game 7 on plays involving Pau Gasol. ALL 10 PLAYS gave the ball to the Lakers. How does ANY player get 10 calls in their favor, with 0 against, in the last quarter of the entire season? How does that happen? How can you talk about Game 7 2010 without bringing up the plays Gasol was involved with. Even when you talk about the 4th qtr, that doesn't include Garnett's basket taken away on and And1, Rondo's layup taken away, Gasol hacking Garnett then the refs call it a block, Kobe falling down while dribbling no travel called then the Lakers score on that posession, etc.

    Go watch the 4th qtr again. Go watch the 10 plays that Gasol was involved with in the 4th quarter where play was stopped because of a referee whistle. Go watch as ALL 10 PLAYS give the Lakers the ball, and tell me how can that happen in the last quarter of an entire season without something funny going on.