April 30, 2019 ☼ 🏀
I’m going to lead off by saying I don’t think the refs did that bad of a job. A lot of the no- calls, including the last shot from Harden, and the obvious mid-air hip check three from CP3 were not fouls. Period.
The offensive players get so much leeway today, it’s not even funny. Watch Harden shoot an open to semi-open three and he does not leap forward five feet within his ginormous “landing area” in the same way he does when someone is close enough to provide a contest on his shot. A foot or two is normal for a person to jump while moving their momentum towards the basket during a jump shot. Five-plus feet is not.
On top of that, the leg kicks, which have been accounted for in the rule book in the past few years, are obvious during these shots.
With all that being said, there’s one important thing I haven’t seen anyone touch on yet. If Houston actually wanted to win this game they would’ve changed their strategy. After not getting the first few calls where they are intentionally trying to draw the foul they should’ve realized how the game was being called and ajdusted to it. If there’s one thing you can say about the refs during this game it’s that they were consistent.
However, Houston went out intent on setting a tone with the refs, willing to sacrifice this game in order to change the environment for future games to be in their favor. The exaggerated flops and leg kicks were designed to get fouls called and when they didn’t come, they knew they’d be able to make a big fuss if they continued their dirty work. This in-game strategy, along with Daryl Morey’s work in the media after the game changed the narrative around the series, which they will use to their advantage in future games.
I’m afraid Houston’s strategy of playing this out in the media is inevitably going to work. Although the refs are surely peeved and probably want to ignore these calls even more, both the league office, as well as the close eye and scrutiny going into game two, will make sure if it. One ref is going to call one early, and that will set the tone for the rest of the game. Golden State should be prepared for that, as well as adding a couple feet to their “landing area” as well in order to fight fire with fire.