Alex Reimer wrote a post at WEEI.com titled “Absurdly lopsided officiating for Celtics-Sixers was easy to predict.”
“Early on, it was apparent the Sixers would receive the benefit of the whistles Monday. In the second quarter, the Celtics were called for 11 fouls. Philadelphia, meanwhile, was only charged with one. Jayson Tatum accumulated three fouls in the first half, and Jaylen Brown, who finished with five fouls, was whistled for a technical in the third quarter. Brad Stevens got one immediately afterwards.
It’s ridiculous to believe that any professional basketball team, never mind one coached by Stevens, would commit 10 more fouls than their opponent in a single quarter. Apparently, the officials were told to call the Celtics tightly. That is the only plausible explanation.”
Well, that’s the only plausible explanation if you believe in conspiracy theories, which I don’t.
Boston lost the game because they didn’t shoot the ball that well, just 41.3% from the floor and 34.4% from three. T.J. McConnell did a nice job on Terry Rozier and the Sixers threw a different tactical look at the Celtics. Brad Stevens pointed out how 15 turnovers and 16 offensive rebounds (Reimer does finally mention this at the end) swung the game to the point where Philly had 19 more field goal attempts on the evening.
Another reason for the disparity, despite simply allowing the Sixers more offensive possessions, is that Boston didn’t spend a ton of time in the paint or drive much to the rim. 32 of their their 75 shots were three pointers, so the overall sample of plays that could garner contact at or near the basket is just much smaller than the Sixers. Of course you could look at how Philly defended on the perimeter and try to identify perceived clutching and grabbing, but most NBA fouls are called inside the paint and not on the outside.
Case in point, when you finish the game with this kind of shot chart, featuring 42.6% of shots from 23 feet or beyond, you’re not gonna receive a lot of whistles:
And while the Celtics committed 28 personal fouls, Philly was whistled 23 times, which was their highest number of the series. 21, 19, and 14 were the other Sixer foul totals in games one through three, so both teams hit their series high Monday night. I don’t even know if it was that lopsided; it was basically both teams getting whistled for corny stuff all over the floor.
That shouldn’t come as a surprise since Tony Brothers and Scott Foster are both terrible, so I agree with Reimer there. I don’t think either team wins when those two refs are in the game. NBA fans certainly don’t win. No one should expect much when those two pop up on the assignment list, because the high number of whistles is a continuation of the regular season, when both finished among the top 15 for personal foul calls per 48 minutes:
Final 2017-18 referee foul call standings pic.twitter.com/FCGfMM5tEi
— NBA Ref Stats (@NBARefStats) April 12, 2018
Foster is #2 on the list and Brothers is #15. Sean Corbin, the third ref who we didn’t even mention, was 10th on that chart.
So, no, nobody should be surprised by any of that. When you have a trigger-happy officiating crew reffing a home Sixers game against an aggressive defensive opponent, this is what happens.
But if we’re really splitting hairs here, Boston got the biggest call of the night to go in their favor, when Terry Rozier took some Joel Embiid bait, threw a half punch/half forearm, and got away with a double technical instead of being tossed:
— Philly Sports (@MadeForPhilly) May 8, 2018
Let’s take a look at what the rulebook says…
Oh wait, Jamie over at 97.5 is on top of it:
the reason I ask is because of this rule, it's funny because it's your rule. I'll hang up & listen. pic.twitter.com/MPhudFSr9A
— Jamie Lynch (@jelynchjr) May 8, 2018
“Any player who throws a punch, whether it connects or not, has committed an unsportsmanlike act. He will be ejected following confirmation during review by instant replay and suspended for a minimum of one game.”
But that didn’t happen. Boston had the biggest call of the night go in their favor.
So “blame the refs” is just low-hanging fruit, the easiest way to wriggle out of one loss in a seven-game series. Brad Stevens will have a plan for T.J. McConnell tonight and the Brothers and Foster will be nowhere near the TD Garden, which is something we all can appreciate.