The Houston Rockets shot 40 free throws to the Memphis Grizzlies’ 20 in a Houston win Thursday, and Zach Randolph is not happy about it.
Randolph, via ClutchFans.net:
“It’s obvious. It was the refs tonight,” Randolph said. “I mean, eight against five. I mean, the game was, in the second half, the man is shooting a free throw every time. We out there playing hard. They dictating the game. It can’t be like that, man. We’re out here playing, too. It was a horrible game they reffed tonight, awful. They dictated the game – plain, point, simple. They dictated the game. We out here working as hard as them. C’mon, man.”
“The man” Randolph is referring to is James Harden, who made 22 of a stunning 25 free throws himself.
This is what the Rockets, and especially Harden, do. They attack and get to the free-throw line. The disparity in foul shots, in itself, doesn’t prove anything.
But did the referees send Houston to the line too often in this specific game?
Using NBA.com/stats, I reviewed all 26 defensive fouls called on the Grizzlies.
Into the early fourth quarter, the referees didn’t really harm Memphis. I counted two questionable calls and one bad call that sent Houston to the line, but on all three plays, a non-shooting foul probably should have been called before the shooting foul that was whistled. On three other plays in that span, the foul might have been assessed to a player who wasn’t fouling, but another player was regardless.
The Grizzlies were clearly setting a physical tone.
That doesn’t excuse what came next, but it might explain it.
Of Memphis’s final six fouls before intentionally fouling late,* two were bad calls and another was questionable.
On one bad call, Harden pulled a move he’s fond of – grabbing his defender’s arm to draw foul.
Yes, that was a foul on James Johnson.
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So, Randolph has a point. But he’s also been in the league long enough to know the Grizzlies’ early physicality could lose them the benefit of the doubt later. It shouldn’t work that way, but it does.
Randolph should also know he’ll be fined, because he definitely will be.
*Houston supporters should use those four intentional fouls in their defense. They certainly affected the foul and free-throw disparities Randolph is complaining about.