Basketball Reference did a study to find out whether Celtics fans have legitimate beef with NBA Finals officiating. The results? While the number of fouls called were right around where they should have been expected to be, there was a discrepancy in the number of free throws taken.
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.
If there really was a conspiracy against the Celtics my question is,why? Why would the league want the Lakers to win the NBA Finals? Why does the NBA benefit if the Celtics lose to the Lakers? I don’t see any reason, other than maybe (and this is a stretch) making Kobe’s star a little bigger than it already was.
As such, I’d like to think the free throw discrepancy was simply a case of the Lakers being more aggressive going to the basket… but who knows? What do you guys think: Were the refs out to get the Celtics?
On another note: Compared to World Cup refs, NBA refs look like they were genetically engineered to never miss a call. And can’t we all just stop talking about the goddamn Finals already? Every time I try to stop thinking about it, something keeps calling me back.