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Foul Calls: Rockets Claim Officials Are Out To Get Them Against Warriors

James Harden

(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Currently in the midst of what should be another torrid series with the Golden State Warriors, the annoyed Houston Rockets have asked the NBA to consider whether they are getting robbed by the officials in games involving the defending league champions.

The contention stems from their assertion poor officiating cost them a chance to play in the 2018 Finals by unfairly influencing the outcome of Game 7 of the Western Conference series. And it has reared its head again after Game 1 of the second-round series.

ESPN has gotten its hands on a report and memo addressed to Byron Spruell, the NBA’s president of league operations. And it in are details of 81 alleged miscalls and non-calls in last year’s deciding game.

“There can be no worse result for the NBA,” the memo said.

This is just the latest example of teams asking for reparations following controversial calls.

The New Orleans Saints complained to the NFL after a missed pass interference call contributed to their loss in the NFC Championship Game. They received an apology. And last week, the Vegas Golden Knights complained to the NHL about the interpretation of a five-minute major penalty which spurred San Jose’s comeback from a 3-0 deficit in Game 7 of their first-round series. The league apologized to them, as well.

According to ESPN, the Rockets never sent the memo, choosing instead to vent during in-person meetings with league officials.

As first reported by The Athletic, the Rockets turned to the NBA’s own rule book in assembling their list of complaints. The team asserts the errors cost them 18.6 points in the game.

The NBA has responded by telling the Rockets they do not agree with the way they compiled evidence. The league gave the Rockets a full-game version for Game 7 of the last-two-minute report it releases. In this report, the league essentially self-reports problem with calls it culls by using video.

Here’s an example of one of Houston’s grievances: With about 10:40 left in the third quarter, Eric Gordon lost possession when he dribbled off Stephen Curry’s foot. It was called a live-ball turnover, control to the Warriors. The league viewed that play as a potential infraction, implying it could have been a kick on Curry’s part.

The Rockets assigned a value of 1.1 lost points to it, an estimate apparently derived from points scored on their half-court possessions this season. In their report, the Rockets assigned a 1.1 point deficit to all circumstances leading to the end of their possessions.

MIke D'Antoni

(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Here’s another: With just over five minutes to play in the third quarter, Houston’s Trevor Ariza took a runner outside the restricted area and ran into Curry, who was obviously trying to draw a charge. There was no call. Again, the NBA deemed it a potential infraction on the Warriors, but this time the Rockets assigned themselves 1.7 points because Ariza is such a good free throw shooter.

One of Houston’s biggest problems was with the interpretation of landing spot fouls against James Harden on his attempted shots, something the Rockets also complained about on Sunday after their Game 1 104-100 loss to the Warriors.

Joe Borgia, the NBA’s senior vice president for replay and referee operations, said the officials were correct in not calling a landing spot foul on the Warriors during a three-point attempt that would have tied the game in its final moments.

The report from last year’s Game 7 mentions a few landing spot fouls on Golden State, including a missed Harden three in the second quarter when Jordan Bell invaded the spot where Harden landed.  The referees did not call a foul. The league said they should have.

To make amends, the Rockets suggest adding a fourth referee and that the league should provide its officiating report to teams after every game. They say not making it to The Finals cost the organization about $20 million.

Their memo said “The reason we are in this situation is the efforts made to improve the referees have been too slow, not extensive enough, and have been held back by entrenched referees who are resisting reform.”

The Rockets recommended postseason referee assignments in the postseason be determined “exclusively” by call accuracy without regard to experience level.

And if you thought the Rockets were just upset about last year you are wrong. They are livid about how this year’s first game was officiated. Mike D’Antoni was hit with a technical and Chris Paul was ejected. The Rockets believe they are getting screwed with again.

Houston’s video crew asserted there were eight three-point attempts in the game that should have resulted in fouls. They say that cost them 24 free throws. Both Harden and D’Antoni were apparently told at halftime by the officials they had already missed four calls on four of those threes.