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Addressing the Free Throw Disparity for the Blazers vs the Warriors

A game went in Portland’s favor in every way but one.

Portland Trail Blazers v Golden State Warriors Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The Portland Trail Blazers fought with everything they had against the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday night, only to come up four points short in a 110-106 loss that went right down to the wire. In the process, the Warriors scored 28 points on 33 free throw attempts, against only 12 points on 16 attempts for Portland.

That disparity has Blazers fans riled up this morning, including this reader of the Blazer’s Edge Mailbag.

Hello,

I am disgusted this morning. This NBA practice of not giving young guys calls, then giving vets feather touch fouls, is too frustrating for me. This is the 2nd game this season that I have noticed where the refs absolutely boned us. Earlier this year we played the Lakers and the free-throw discrepancy was like 32-9 in favor of the Lakers and they only won by 6. Then, it happens again last night, only this time it was more obvious. Portland outscored the warriors from field goals and three pointers and the free-throw discrepancy was 33-16, they won by 4. You have a more trained eye than I do, are you frustrated by it? I am done watching for awhile, if we don’t have a chance to win, why watch.

Don

Don! Come back! The Blazers did have a chance to win, despite the enormous free throw disparity. They didn’t give up on the game. You don’t have to give up on them.

As I noted in my extended game recap, the free throw disparity was a deciding factor in the outcome of the game. It wasn’t the only factor, but it was there. And yes, I found it somewhat annoying. It was, as they say, one of those nights.

Veteran, and championship, privilege was certainly part of the equation. When you see Draymond Green match up against Toumani “How Do You Spell That?” Camara, you’re going to assume that Green has precedent on any calls that are in doubt. Due to injuries, Camara was near the top of the recognizable name list last night. Duop Reath and Jabari Walker aren’t well known. Scoot Henderson is a rookie, Shaedon Sharpe a sophomore, and Anfernee Simons isn’t known as a defender. That’s just not going to work out well in the NBA culture.

The only way to overcome the phenomenon is to develop a defensive reputation and win with it. The Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics can get away with things these young Blazers just can’t. Infractions are almost always a judgment call, and since Steph Curry has long since been ordained NBA royalty, erring on his side is at least a bit understandable.

The Blazers playing aggressively on the defensive end exaggerated the effect. Motion and swatting will draw attention. The Blazers were doing a lot of it. They had the eyes of the refs upon them.

The quibble I have is that the refs didn’t appear to return the favor on the other end at all. Sharpe played aggressively on both ends, not just the defensive. He took contact almost every time he went to the rim. He did not get rewarded. Henderson went to the pull-up and the three more than the drive, but they missed a couple calls that should have gone in his favor as well.

If we say the Blazers were more aggressive than the Warriors on defense and thus incurred extra penalties, we should also be able to point out that they were aggressive on offense and earned extra benefits. Or at least some benefit. No dice.

The asterisk at the end of that thought is that the young Blazers also need to get better finishing their shots, contact or no. You’d need some kind of electronic abacus to tally the number of ultra-quick, high-flying moves that result in rim-bonking shot attempts. First you wonder how they got free, then you wonder why.

None of this should influence officials that much, of course. In an ideal world, a foul would be a foul. The world isn’t ideal. Neither is human perception. Neither are the machinations and presumptions of professional sports.

That said, being sanguine about it is probably the way to go. Look at it this way. The disparity is obvious on some nights because the Blazers are young. But because they are young, their place in the standings doesn’t matter quite so much. When they’re experienced enough to contend, they’ll also be established enough that nights like this should be less frequent.