‘Tis with a growing sense of frustration that I sat through game 2 of the NBA Finals. The LA Lakers – despite a late 4th run at the Celtics – lost game 2 to Boston, with an end-game score of 108-102.
And honestly? I don’t think the Lakers were playing anywhere near well enough to deserve to win the game… but one stat stands out like the proverbial dog’s bollocks to me:
Boston, 38 free throw attempts. LA, 10 free throw attempts.
Are you kidding?
A 28 attempt disparity?
How, in anyone’s world, is that even remotely balanced?
Ok, that was my initial reaction immediately post game 2… it was indeed a frustrating experience. And I’ve calmed down a bit since then, and have decided to explore what I – and most other Lakers fans (and some not fans at all) – found to be amazing in regards to the officiating of game 2.
Was interesting that most critics of the Lakers have pulled out the “you-have-to-attack-the-basket” defense on why the free throw disparity was so huge in game 2 of the NBA Finals between the Boston Celtics and the LA Lakers. And that’s often a fair comment with two teams.
But it’s generally considered that even if that’s the case, the jumpshooting team can expect to get 50% of the free throws the more aggressive team does. Even so, at around 50%, that team will probably feel that they were screwed (just ask the Dallas Mavericks about when they played Miami in game 5 of the Finals in 2006. Dallas had 25 FTAs to Miami’s 49. It was considered a HUGE disparity). LA had a sliver over 26% of the FTAs that Boston received.
And the more I thought about it, the more I realised that I didn’t ‘feel’ that Boston was that much more aggressive in driving for the hoop. But gut feelings count for nothing… that was until whilst visiting Hardwood Paroxysm’s takes on the game (Matt & Corn) I read something interesting from one of the commenters, and decided to take a look for myself.
The idea that Boston was more aggressive in the paint than LA during game 2 is a fallacy. Yup, a fallacy… an untruth. If you explore the ESPN Shot Chart, you’ll note that between them, Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol took 23 shots in the paint. Between them, they had 1 free throw attempt.
Look at the same chart and enter Kevin Garnett’s name: good ol’ KG shot twice in the paint.
And got 4 free throw attempts.
The same commenter pointed out CBS’s very informative breakdown within their shot chart… and it shows that the Lakers team attempted 23 layups, and 7 dunks (a total of 30). Boston: 14 layup attempts, 4 dunks attempted – 18.
Yet “Boston were more aggressive” is by far the most common reason given for the incredibly lopsided free throw allocation. They played ‘better’.
Umm… for 1 quarter of game 2 they did.
In the third, Boston were clearly the better team. In the 4th it was LA.
In the first half, it was pretty even – but some sloppy fouls given set the tone of the game early, and the 19-2 free throws awarded created a pretty big hole to climb out of.
The next most common apologist theory for this is that it’s merely ‘Homecourt advantage’, and the Lakers will get the whistle when back in LA. Sheesh… whilst if I’m honest there’s a part of me that hopes so, I also kinda hope not.
That something like that would make the referees feel that that the adjudication of game 2 was vindicated would be a sad thing indeed. ‘2 wrongs do indeed make a right’.
I do hope that the game was simply an aberration, a “whoops-was-it-really-that-bad
-I-guess-we-effed-up” would be preferable.
Yet another excuse offered for this is that “it happens”.
In the Finals?
It shouldn’t. Homecourt advantage shouldn’t mean this…
Going back to the 2006 Finals (where I firmly believe that the Dallas Mavericks got shafted by a) some pretty shoddy general refereeing, and associated with that – b) Dwayne Wade’s inability to do anything wrong in the eyes of the adjudicating group), it would appear the NBA’s learnt nothing about the nature of the viewing public.
The vast majority do not want to see homecourt advantage to mean that the referees in effect call two games.
No-one wants that.
Let the guys play.
Please, just let ’em play.
(HT to a commenter at Hardwood Paroxysm for a point in the right direction re. factual stats)