NBA Playoffs: Refs giving Miami ‘stars’ all (well most) of the calls

LeBron James
James and the Heat is getting the majority of the calls.

I don’t like to put anything on anyone or anything in particular, especially if that any one or thing has no business in deciding the outcome of a basketball game, but I think now everyone has the right to speculate on what is really going on between the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics. It’s clear that Miami has two players who are far more superior to anyone on Boston’s team. But now I think the Heat is getting some help . . . from the officials.

In the first two games of the series, Boston has been called for 52 personal fouls and four player technical fouls, along with one coaching technical foul. Miami, however, has been called for 39 personal fouls and one player technical foul. The free-throw differential is even bigger. Boston has shot a total of 50 free-throws compared to Miami’s 70 free-throw attempts. I understand that Dwyane Wade and LeBron James drive to the basket and get fouled, but don’t tell me that Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo haven’t been or don’t do the same thing. Rondo scored 44 points last night, played 53 minutes (all possible minutes) and took only 12 free-throw attempts. The refs missed a called in overtime when Wade smacked Rondo on the face as Rondo drove to the basket. That should have been two free-throw attempts. Meanwhile, James shoots 7-20 from the field but attempts 24 free-throws. For the time that James spent on the floor (48 minutes) that is 1 free-throw attempted for every two minutes he was on the floor.

Whatever happened to “playoff basketball”? Is there such a thing anymore? Boston’s reserves spent less time on the floor (49 minutes) than Miami’s reserves (78 minutes), but got whistled for more fouls (17-9; two Boston players fouled-out). During the regular season, Miami was called for 19.4 fouls per game, and that number has jumped to 20.5 in the playoffs. James has averaged 1.8 fouls per game in the postseason and guarded Carmelo Anthony over a five-game series in Round 1. During the regular season and playoffs, the New York Knicks drew an average of 21.6 opponent team fouls per game. The Miami Heat’s highest total of fouls in that five game series: 26 fouls in Game 4, a Knicks’ win by the way. They were called for a total of 92 fouls in the five game series, an average of 18.4 per game.

In Round 2, they faced the Indiana Pacers. The Pacers were called for an average of 21.7 fouls per game in the regular season; one of the highest fouling teams in the league. Here is how the fouls per game played out game-by-game in this six game series.

Game 1 – Pacers: 31 fouls, Heat: 22 fouls (Heat win)

Game 2 – Pacers: 25 fouls, Heat: 22 fouls (Pacers win and LeBron called for 0 fouls in 43 minutes)

Game 3 – Pacers: 20 fouls, Heat: 21 fouls (Pacers win by 19)

Game 4 – Pacers: 28 fouls, Heat: 24 fouls (Heat win)

Game 5 – Pacers: 21 fouls, Heat: 20 fouls (Heat win)

Game 6 – Pacers: 22 fouls, Heat 20 fouls (Heat win)

Pacers total fouls: 147; Heat’s total fouls: 129.

It might only be a small margin, but consider the fact that Indiana had Danny Granger foul-out in Game 2, a game in which Indiana snuck-out a victory, Roy Hibbert in foul trouble in a Game 3 blow-out, and David West and Paul George were in foul trouble throughout the series. Granger averaged 2.3 personal fouls per game in the regular season; Hibbert averaged 3.0, and West averaged 2.4. In that series, Granger averaged 3.5, Hibbert averaged 3.5, and West averaged 3.3. Also Chris Bosh didn’t play in any other game other than Game 1.

The Pacers averaged 26.1 free-throw attempts per game in the regular season (3rd in the NBA). Miami averaged 24.2 ft-a per game in the regular season. In the series the Pacers shot 77% from the line (78% in the regular season) and the Heat shot 73% (77% in the regular season). The Heat attempted 13 more free-throws than the Pacers and 27 ft-a per game compared to Indiana’s 25.

Indiana 20-28, 19-27, 20-23, 20-24, 17-23, 19-24= 115-149 77% 25 free-throw attempts per game.

Miami 29-38, 20-29, 13-18, 20-28, 20-29, 16-20= 118-162 73% 27 free-throw attempts per game.

Wade and James were called for a total of 25 personal fouls in the entire series; Granger was called for 21 personal fouls alone. Miami’s starting five in the regular season, including Bosh, was whistled for 10.5 fouls per game. In the series, with the lineup of Wade, James, Mario Chalmers, Anthony, and Battier, the Heat was called for 15.8 fouls per game. The Pacers lineup of Granger, George Hill, Paul George, West, and Hibbert were called for 19 fouls per game.

I know that the Heat is better than the Pacers and was projected to beat them anyway, but it goes to show you that only key players on other teams are called for fouls. Do you know how many games LeBron has fouled out of in his career? The answer is five. He has only fouled-out of five games in his entire career.

And I know the Heat is better than the Celtics. But let’s go back to the beginning. In the first two games, James has been called for four fouls in 92 minutes. That’s an average of one foul every 23 minutes of playing time. James has guarded Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Rondo. James’ counterpart, Pierce, has been called for seven fouls in 83 minutes of playing time and fouled out in Game 2.

I could go on, but I think I am going to stop there. Because it doesn’t seem like this is going to change any time soon.

The NBA is a “star-driven” league, but it’s the referees who are co-piloting.


2 thoughts on “NBA Playoffs: Refs giving Miami ‘stars’ all (well most) of the calls

  1. Hey man,

    Just came across your blog and really enjoyed reading your NBA stuff. We currently have quite a few NBA writing openings on the FanSided network, and I think you’d be a great addition to our team. If you’d be interesting in contributing for one of our team sites or general NBA sites, let me know and we can discuss further details. If you are interested send me an email at



  2. I feel like just quitting the NBA all together. Stern has ruined the league, he markets certain teams,rivalries. I have noticed it for myself what you have described above for a long time. Its obvious that certain players do not get calls, Lebron said it better than anyone “I don’t foul out”. The games are fixed, it is not about the competition anymore its about MONEY. It doesn’t take a person with half a brain to see that some players can go a whole game with getting 1 or 2 calls. I hate David Stern and they need to get rid of him.


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