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March 8th, 2014 No comments

We are happy to announce that we have started providing some information about NBA referees again. Instead of just critiquing calls from games, we have broadened our coverage to include analytics on referees and will occasionally release some of this information during games on our Twitter page @RefAnalytics, so please follow us there for updates.

Also, you can check out what we’re all about these days at RefAnalytics.com and some recognition we received recently from the 2014 MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference.

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Houston NBA announcer would love to have refs publicly evaluated

June 18th, 2011 No comments

This sports talk radio interview Houston occurred in 2010 with Houston announcer Matt Bullard confirmed the idea to evaluate referees and publicly disclose this information was a good one.

Matt Bullard edited interview by refcalls

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Yet another discrepancy between what the rules say, and what is enforced

June 15th, 2011 3 comments

Truehoop wrote a great piece on yet another discrepancy between what’s in the rulebook, and what the refs allow, or in this case, how the league office interprets their own rules.

You might remember the scuffle in Game 6 when DeShawn Stevenson and Udonis Haslem started shoving each other during a timeout. Players from both benches — who were already on the floor — came over to try to break things up.

At the time, the announcers said that the “rulebook” allows players to come off the floor during timeouts. We looked it up, and discovered the rulebook doesn’t say anything about players being allowed to do that during timeouts. It has just become an accepted practice, and it never became an issue until Sunday’s game when it butted up against the rule that IS in the rulebook to not come on to the court during an altercation.

Because the rule of players coming off the bench and getting involved in an altercation IS in the rulebook, we thought that the league would have had to suspend some of the players (if there was going to be a Game 7) if they were to follow the letter of the rulebook like they did in the 2007 playoff series between the Suns and Spurs.

As Truehoop notes, Stu Jackson, who heads up NBA basketball operations, said back in 2007 after players came off the bench during that altercation, “If you break it (the rule), you will get suspended, regardless of what the circumstances are.”

And David Stern said, “Is it a red-letter rule? Absolutely.”

Then we learned the NBA issued this statement during the second half of Game 6:

A player will not automatically be suspended for leaving the bench if he has already left the bench because a timeout was called.

As TrueHoop writes, “The rule is the rule is the rule is a reasonable position. The rule is the rule is the rule, except once in a while … that does not fly.”

Final numbers (and video) of missed and wrong calls from Game 6 (Heat-Mavericks)

June 14th, 2011 8 comments

We have done another review of the missed and wrong ref calls from Game 6 and placed clips of them in the video below. We ended up revising our preliminary numbers slightly.

We calculated there were 6 wrong or missed calls in the game, an anomaly of a game since we’ve had many more in the other games of this NBA Finals series.

The Mavericks were the beneficiary of one of these wrong calls, resulting in +2 points for them, whereas Miami benefitted from 5 wrong or missed calls, resulting in +7 points. The numbers changed from our previous rough estimate since we moved some of them to our “missed travels” stat.

Again, our caveats still apply: these numbers are approximate to just give an idea on how much of an impact wrong or missed ref calls can have on a game. These estimates don’t take into account a myriad of factors that could increase the point differentials between the teams because of wrong or missed ref calls, like teams getting into the bonus quicker and getting more free throws because of it, players who get into foul trouble quicker and play less minutes as a result, etc.

Our new numbers for missed travels are now 11 (instead of 8): 4 for Dallas, 7 for Miami. On those 4 travels committed by Dallas players, 6 points were scored on those possessions. Miami scored 2 points on the possessions for their 7 travels.

As we stated in our preliminary results the day after the game, we believe the impact of LeBron James‘ hesitancy to drive to the basket (which increases the chances of traveling), good Dallas defense, or both, had a big impact on reducing the number of travels as we saw earlier in the series.

Another reason may be because as playoff games got more intense and the stakes became higher, like in an elimination game as this one was, the game slows down into a half-court game more often.

The refs for this game were Steve Javie, Derrick Stafford, and Scott Foster. It’s clear in the clips below that Foster made more questionable calls than the other refs in his crew.

Wrong calls that benefitted the Mavericks:

  1. The refs get wrong a 24-second violation where they should have stopped play, as the rulebook dictates, rather than have the players continue to play on, which caught Miami off guard. Dallas scored an easy basket as a result.

Wrong calls that benefitted the Heat:

  1. Ref Derrick Stafford calls a blocking foul on Dallas’ Ian Manhinmi when it doesn’t appear he made any contact with Miami’s Dwyane Wade
  2. Ref Scott Foster doesn’t call a foul on Miami’s Mario Chalmers when it’s clear he pushed off on Dallas’ Jose Barea.
  3. The refs won’t call a foul on Miami’s Joel Anthony when it appeared he made body contact with Dallas’ Tyson Chandler.
  4. Ref Scott Foster calls a foul on Dallas’ Jose Barea when it appeared Miami’s Mario Chalmers initiated contact by lowering his shoulder and pushing off with his arm.
  5. Ref Scott Foster calls a foul on Dallas’ Tyson Chandler when it appeared he didn’t make any contact with Miami’s Chris Bosh.

Now that the NBA season is over, we will occasionally post some information or new video we create that you might find interesting. You can just “like” us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter to get alerted when we have posted new stuff for you to checkout.

Mavericks-Heat (Game 6): Lowest numbers of missed/wrong calls & missed travels in playoffs

June 13th, 2011 12 comments

We’ve done a preliminary review of all the plays from last night’s Game 6 between Dallas and Miami. There were less wrong and missed ref calls than normal (but we’d still like this number to be reduced for all future games). We counted 12 total, but there were about 10 calls where we couldn’t make an accurate assessment because ABC didn’t show alternate angles like we have seen from other networks earlier in the playoffs and regular season.

Out of the 12 wrong or missed calls where we could make an assessment, 4 of them were to the benefit of the Mavericks for a rough estimate of +4 in points, and 8 favored the Heat for an estimated +10 point difference.

It’s interesting that the number of missed travels decreased from the refs, too, with a total of eight, far below the 28 from Game 5. Perhaps that was due to the continued reluctance (or good Dallas defense, or both) for LeBron James to drive to the basket. But also because maybe as playoff games get more intense and the stakes become higher, like in an elimination game, the game slows down into a half-court game more frequently.

And another reason may be because refs are know to call a lot of ticky-tack fouls — like Joey Crawford or Bill Kennedy — weren’t officiating this game.

Dallas had 3 missed travels that resulted in +4 points in their favor, and Miami had 5 missed travels that resulted in a 2-point advantage.

We’ll try to provide more details, including videos, over the next couple of days. It’s been a long, grueling playoffs for us at RefCalls, especially after pulling an all-nighter to get these important numbers (approximate) to you. So thanks for your patience as we drag ourselves across the finish line.

UPDATE: We have revised our preliminary numbers, as well as provided a video of the missed and wrong ref calls from this game, at this post.

Funny ref call image from Game 5

June 12th, 2011 1 comment

We came across this great animated gif image of ref Bill Kennedy doing his thing in Game 5 of the NBA Finals. It happened at the 2:17 mark of the 2nd quarter when Dallas’ Shawn Marion was called for raising his leg up into the body of LeBron James.

Watch out, Joey Crawford. You might have some competition in the “Let’s Get Some Attention” category!

NBA ref Bill Kennedy thrusting his hips

Heat-Mavericks (Game 5): Missed & wrong calls were just about even (but missed travels weren’t)

June 12th, 2011 10 comments

Below are videos of the missed calls from Thursday’s Game 5. Here’s the breakdown of the missed calls per team:

We counted 6 questionable ref calls that helped Dallas gain an extra 5 points, and 7 ref calls that helped Miami gain 5 points. So it was just about even. (Slightly revised from an earlier count)

But the pattern we continue to see with ref Joe Crawford (known to be “whistle happy”) continued: 7 of these calls solely involved Joe Crawford, with 5 of them being “ticky-tack” fouls, one of them a missed charging violation, and another obvious foul that occurred right in front of him that he failed to catch..

We reiterate that these numbers are approximate, and don’t take into account the myriad of variables that wrong or missed calls can have on a team’s point production or points they give up, like players getting in foul trouble earlier, teams put into the “bonus” faster, etc. Since there could be many other variables, if you’re inclined to do it, feel free to come up with your own calculations based on the work we’ve done showing the questionable calls and no-calls.

These videos don’t include missed travels, but we hope that we’ll have enough time to create a separate video of those travels before Game 6 on Sunday night.

But we can tell you the numbers for missed travels were much different than what we’ve seen from previous games — Dallas had more than Miami, and scored more points on those possessions. Part of the reason is because of LeBron James‘ much publicized reluctance to drive to the basket, but also because of Dirk Nowitzki putting the ball on the floor more.

There were approximately 28 missed travels in this game (so you can understand why it takes awhile to break down a game and clip out these plays), and Dallas had a large advantage in points because of them, which was also rare in this series. Preliminarily, the points we counted were 22-13, but we’ll want to confirm those with an additional review of the plays.

Since we’ll probably be short on time, we’ll try to create a video with just the most important missed travels where points were scored on those possessions, if we can even get that out, and confirm the raw number of travels and point differential after a second review of these plays. If we can’t do it before Game 6, then we’ll just move on and focus on our analysis for Game 6.

Here’s the video of missed/wrong calls that helped the Mavericks (down the page is the video of missed/wrong calls that helped the Heat):

1st quarter

  1. Ref Joe Crawford will call a ticky-tack foul on Miami’s Joel Anthony involving Dirk Nowitzki.

2nd quarter

  1. Ref Joe Crawford will call a ticky-tack foul on Miami’s Dwyane Wade involving Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki

3rd quarter

  1. Ref Mike Callahan will call a foul on Miami’s Juwan Howard after Dallas’ Ian Mahinmi sells contact very well.
  2. Ref Joe Crawford doesn’t call a foul on Dallas’ Jason Kidd after hitting Miami’s LeBron James on the wrist.

4th quarter

  1. Ref Joe Crawford will call a foul on Miami’s Mario Chalmers involving Dallas’ Jose Barea that doesn’t appear justified.
  2. The refs don’t call a foul on Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki involving Miami’s Dwyane Wade.

Here’s the video of missed/wrong calls that helped the Heat:

1st quarter

  1. Ref Joe Crawford will incorrectly call a blocking violation on Dallas’ Brian Cardinal involving Miami’s Dwyane Wade.

2nd quarter

  1. Ref Joe Crawford will call a foul on Dallas’ Jose Barea after negligible contact with Miami’s Mario Chalmers. He should have just let it go.

3rd quarter

  1. No violation will be called on Miami’s Joel Anthony for having a forearm with a bent elbow in the back of Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki outside the lower defensive box
  2. No violation will be called on Miami’s Mario Chalmers for an apparent loose ball foul on Dallas’ Jason Terry.
  3. Ref Joe Crawford will call a ticky-tack foul on Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki involving Miami’s Joel Anthony.

4th quarter

  1. The refs arguably should have called a flagrant foul on Miami’s Juwan Howard after fouling Dallas’ DeShawn Stevenson.
  2. The refs missed a shooting foul from Miami’s LeBron James on Dallas’ Shawn Marion .

Heat-Mavericks (Game 5): Two big ref calls/no-calls near the end of game

June 10th, 2011 47 comments

We’ll be working on videos of missed calls from Thursday’s Game 5 and publishing them on Saturday and Sunday. But before doing that, we wanted to feature two plays near the end of the game that had an impact on the outcome.

They both occurred with over 2 minutes remaining, so there was still plenty of time for the outcome of the game to be affected by subsequent plays, but they were big plays nonetheless.

The first is of Dirk Nowitzki driving along the baseline where the refs (specifically Bill Kennedy) missed Nowitzki traveling on his way to a dunk that put the Mavericks up 102-100.

Then on the very next possession, it was a tough call for ref Joe Crawford to make at real speed when LeBron James caught the ball as he was driving to the hoop, and was called for a charging violation on Tyson Chandler.

Chandler was established when James charged into him, and Chandler was in the restricted area (or on the line, which is the same thing). The key question is where was James when he “received” the ball? It’s pretty clear he received it in the lower defensive box area, so this was a good call.

The lower defensive box (LDB) is the area between the tip of the free throw circle, down to the end line, and out across the lane a couple of feet to some small hash marks along the end line that are hardly visible, but they are there.

The reason why the LDB is relevant on block-charge situations like this is because the rule makers understood that it would be impossible for a defender to get out of the restricted area quick enough if an opponent on offense received the ball real close to the basket. It would give the offense an unfair advantage. So that’s why they came up with a reasonable amount of space and grant the defender a “waiver” to legally be in the restricted area.

Check out the video below for these two plays.

Heat-Mavericks (Game 4): Unique ref calls (good and bad) from the game

June 9th, 2011 5 comments

Below is a video of select calls from Game 4 that we didn’t include in the missed calls video we published earlier today, which are all pretty interesting in our mind. We agree with most of them, but there are two plays we reviewed that will slightly change some of the calculations we made earlier. Here are the two plays in question:

– At the 1:31 mark is when Dwyane Wade makes a spin move, goes up for a dunk, loses control of the ball in mid-air, then the ball drops through the basket without touching the rim. This appears to be legal since he didn’t “vibrate the rim, net or backboard so as to cause the ball to make an unnatural bounce.” So Wade is lucky that the ball didn’t touch the rim. However, a couple of seconds before Wade grabbed on to the rim, he made a spin move around his defender by lifting his pivot foot before releasing the ball. The refs missed this travel, so in essence, the basket by Wade shouldn’t have counted.

– At the 2:09 mark is the potential clear-path violation that the refs didn’t call on Miami’s Mike Miller when he made contact with Dallas’ Jason Kidd. After close review of the play and the rulebook, we believe the refs missed it since Kidd had control of the ball when he tapped it forward. The rulebook says a dribble can be a “tap” or a “throw” if the player is in “control” when he does it. Kidd appears to be fully in control of his body when he does “tap” it forward.

These two plays would revise our stats to the following for this game…

Non-traveling oriented violations missed or ruled incorrectly:

The refs missed or got wrong 10 calls that benefitted Miami (rather than 9), which resulted in 12 extra points (approximately) advantageous to the Heat (instead of 10). This is in comparison to the two missed or wrong calls that helped Dallas, resulting in 2 extra points (roughly speaking).

Number of missed travels:

Miami had 9 of these (instead of 8). Dwyane Wade had 6 of them, not 5. These 9 travels resulted in 7 points being scored by the Heat, which is one more than what Dallas scored (6) from missed travels.

Heat-Mavericks (Game 4): Less wrong ref calls, but still a disparity

June 9th, 2011 16 comments

After analyzing all the wrong or missed ref calls in Game 4 played Tuesday night, we determined it was one of the better officiated games (Greg Willard, Monty McCutchen and Marc Davis were in the crew) given we counted only 10 calls or no-calls (taking out missed travels) that were wrong or questionable. Even though the Mavericks won, there was still a disparity that favored the Heat.

We counted 2 calls/no-calls that favored Dallas, which roughly helped them score 2 extra points directly in those possessions in question. On the other hand, 8 calls/no-calls helped Miami, resulting in 10 extra points. We know this may be hard to believe for some of the skeptics who think these numbers are rigged, but you can checkout the video below of the plays in question.

If you’ve liked hearing analyst Jeff Van Gundy‘s frank commentary on flopping during the playoffs, you’ll love what he says about flopping starting at the 2:04 mark of the video.

There were several calls as they occurred that were tricky to assess that we ultimately agreed with, or were inconclusive. We plan on publishing a video of those plays separately, so if you don’t see some calls/no-calls from the game in the video below, wait for the next video we publish to understand our assessment on some of those calls.

After that, if you think we left something out, you can submit your calls into the forum like we’ve always encouraged so we can have a complete database of missed calls.

We also counted up the number of missed traveling violations by the refs. There were 16 of them, which is lower than what we’ve seen from other games, partly because Miami’s LeBron James didn’t attack the rim as much as he normally does. According to our calculations, both teams had an equal number of missed travels — eight each — with Dallas scoring 6 points on those possessions where they occurred, and Miami scoring 4 points.

Here’s the individual player breakdown of missed travels:

Miami (8):
Dwyane Wade – 5
LeBron James – 1
Chris Bosh – 1
Mike Miller - 1

*Note: after another review of some key plays after this post was published, we have subsequently changed the missed travels on Miami from 8 to 9, and Dwayne Wade’s individual number from 5 to 6. For more details, see this story.

Dallas (8):
Dirk Nowitzki - 6
Shawn Marion – 1
Jason Terry - 1

Here’s the video of the missed or wrong ref calls for both teams (without the missed travels). Below the video is the list of plays featured:

Wrong or missed ref calls that helped Dallas (resulted in 2 points):

  1. Ref Monty McCutchen will call a ticky-tack foul against Miami’s Udonis Haslem.
  2. Dallas’ DeShawn Stevenson will flop to draw a foul against Miami’s LeBron James.

Wrong or missed ref calls that helped Miami (resulted in 10 points):*

  1. The refs miss a push-off by Miami’s Mike Bibby on Dallas’ Jose Barea.
  2. The refs miss a basket interference-goaltending violation by Miami’s LeBron James.
  3. Miami’s LeBron James flops to draw a foul on Dallas’ Brendan Haywood.
  4. The refs miss an offensive 3-second violation on Miami’s Chris Bosh.
  5. The refs miss a shooting foul on Miami’s Joel Anthony involving Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki.
  6. Ref Marc Davis will call a shooting foul on Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki when it’s clear he cleanly stripped Miami’s Chris Bosh.
  7. Ref Monty McCutchen calls a ticky-tack foul on Dallas’ Tyson Chandler involving Miami’s Chris Bosh.
  8. The refs don’t call a foul on Miami’s Udonis Haslem for contact applied to Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki.

*Note: after another review of some key plays after this post was published, we have subsequently changed the wrong or missed calls that helped Miami from 8 to 9, and the number of points resulting from them has been revised from 10 to 12. For more details, see this story.