Home > Dallas Mavericks, Portland Trailblazers > Blazer coach fined $35k for comments about refs. Was he justified? We break it down

Blazer coach fined $35k for comments about refs. Was he justified? We break it down

Portland coach Nate McMillan had some critical things to say about the referees after the Blazers’ loss to Dallas on Saturday, which earned him a $35,000 fine from the league on Monday. Here’s what McMillan said after Saturday’s game…

The (Dallas) free throws, I just don’t get that. It’s hard for our guys to know how to play out there when it’s called a little different—19-2 in the fourth quarter. And I felt like we were attacking, and guys really didn’t know how to play with the fouls that were being called. A lot of touch fouls. I thought that took the momentum and pretty much gave them control of the game in the fourth quarter.

We have decided to break down the foul situation further to see just how much of a discrepancy there was in McMillan’s claim there were “a lot of touch fouls” with what actually happened.

Unfortunately, ESPN (which we have to watch since we don’t think NBA League Pass channels are carrying the playoff games) did a terrible job showing replays of alleged “touch” fouls so that we could get a closer look. ESPN was too busy promoting upcoming games during the ensuing free throws after alleged fouls, which is a shame for sports fans. [Ironically, you see more replays of fouls on regional sports networks, I guess because they don’t have as much to promote]. I digress.

Here’s what we determined happened in the fourth quarter.

4th quarter breakdown

We counted 6 fouls the Blazers committed on Dirk Nowitzki in the fourth quarter. Because ESPN didn’t show close-up, floor-angle replays of 4 of these fouls, we have to go off what the primary camera angle showed.

It looked like 3 fouls were somewhat “touch” or “ticky-tack” fouls. Another foul, charged towards Andre Miller, looked like a ticky-tack foul, but the floor-angle replay shows that Miller was foolish to try to reach around Dirk’s body for a steal.

By the way, Miller had no chance of stealing the ball, and you’d expect a veteran like Miller to not stick his hand or arm close to an opponent’s body like that when he has no chance of getting it while Nowitzki is spinning away from him. Instead, the chances of getting a foul called goes way up, even if the defender doesn’t make contact.

The remaining two fouls the Blazers had on Dirk, both shooting fouls, looked like legit foul calls by the refs.

So that means 3-4 of the 6 fouls that Dirk received in the fourth quarter — as the Mavericks were making their comeback — were “touch” fouls (if contact was even made on some of them) that shouldn’t have been called. The 6-8 points that Dirk scored off ensuing free throws is fairly significant in a tight fourth quarter, and did play a part in Dallas’ comeback victory.

However, if you look at the touch fouls DALLAS was called for in the fourth quarter, the Mavericks have a legitimate beef to say at least two fouls that Shawn Marion earned in the fourth quarter (2:23 and 1:30 mark) were touch fouls. That reduces the delta between the questionable fouls that both teams received in the fourth quarter from 3-4 to only 1 or 2.

We did count the number of fouls that Portland arguably should have received in THEIR favor in the fourth quarter but didn’t receive from the refs, and it was 3 or maybe 4 at the most. That bumps the delta between both teams in the 4th quarter to 4-6 in Dallas’ favor. Kind of significant. But if you take the whole game into account, it smooths things out a bit.

The rest of the game (Quarters 1-3)

For example, in the 1st quarter, we counted 3 touch fouls the Mavericks were charged with committing, and an over-the-back foul the Blazers committed on Nowitzki, but there was no call. So that’s 4 calls/no-calls in the 1st quarter that were not in Dallas’ favor.

In the 2nd quarter, it looked like Dallas was charged with 3 questionable fouls, and two fouls the Blazers committed on the Mavs were not called. That’s 5 calls/no-calls that were not in Dallas’ favor.

The 3rd quarter was pretty clean with no questionable fouls that penalized Dallas. It’s strange that the fourth quarter was so foul-laden in comparison to the previous 3 quarters. That doesn’t do much for trying to improve the referees’ reputation for being consistent.

So if you add up all the calls from each quarter that went AGAINST Dallas in the first 3 quarters, that’s 9 calls. And If you reduce it by the 4-6 net calls they had go their way in the fourth quarter, that means 3-5 net wrong calls/no-calls were not in Dallas’ favor for the entire game.

We’re sure Portland has a number they could claim penalized them in the first 3 quarters to reduce that delta, but the net number would probably be just about even, or maybe a little higher, which isn’t all that much when you take into account the high number of possessions in each game.

In summary, McMillan has a legitimate claim that the Blazers got the short end of the stick by having a net deficit of 4-6 fouls to Dallas in the 4th quarter, which seemed completely different from how the game was being called the first 3 quarters. But if you take into account how Dallas was fouled throughout the game and getting no call, and the same for Portland, the numbers would most likely end up being a wash.

Also, Dallas took the lead in the 4th quarter 75-74 on a 3-pointer from Nowitzki with 3:40 remaining, and extended the lead with another jump shot from Dirk. Those weren’t possessions where touch fouls would have been an issue compared to when shots are taken in the paint and more contact may occur.

Probably the most important foul that was called against Portland was at the 1:30 mark when Andre Miller clearly fouled Jason Terry on a drive to the basket, sending Terry to the line to extend the lead to 82-78. Brandon Roy missed a free throw after an away-from-the-play foul was called against Marion, which was a phantom foul.

Nicolas Batum then missed a jumper and the Blazers lost possession of the rebound during a scrum. Then Jason Kidd hit a 3-pointer, and that was the ballgame. When the chips were down in crunch time with Portland still leading, Dallas made their shots, and Portland didn’t.

A few other notes

McMillan mentioned the 19-2 free throw discrepancy in the fourth quarter in favor of the Mavs, but you have to knock that down a little bit since 4 of those free throws came after intentional fouls late in the game.

Also, McMillan seems to be a little hypersensitive to referee issues. When interviewed after the 1st quarter by ESPN’s Holly Rowe, he said about the Mavericks, “They were flopping a little bit..” We watched the 1st quarter closely for flops, and we didn’t really see any…and remember we also run a site called “TopFlops.com,” so we’re always on the lookout for them.

  • Blazernation

    I agree with some of what you guys said, but certainly not all of it. Here is a pretty good video on youtube that’s been getting a lot of attention on blazerforums:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NORVvbkn0MM#t=4m07s

    Watch that and then compare it to the game in general. The first three quarters they (the refs) let them play a scrappy and physical game. Then in the 4th, Portland got mugged. And to add insult to injury, when they even touched Dallas, the whistle blew.

    • Teletheus

      Anyone who honestly thinks the Mavericks are the ones doing the “mugging” is either delusional, an idiot, or both.

      The first three quarters, Portland got away with a lot of hard contact that should have been fouls. In the fourth, they didn’t.

      Funny to see the same people who call the Mavericks “soft” now calling them muggers. Pick a story and stick to it, clowns. (Hint: Saying that the Mavericks routinely get bad calls in their favor is not a good story to stick to in this situation.)

  • Sturmlocke

    whether or not it got a lot of attention on blazerforums, it just doesnt show the whole picture. as refcalls pointed out, the blazers got their share of touch fouls earlier. even blazersedge.com didnt complain much about it. either way, the blazers just didnt play good enough

  • duh

    You didn’t look at the entire game for both teams, so outside of the fourth quarter your analysis is completely pointless. You “assume” it would be a wash? Why even bother looking for one side but not the other?

    • RefCalls staff

      The piece started out as just a way to challenge McMillan that his team wasn’t the only one that was getting robbed by the refs. For Miller, his complaint was about the 4th quarter, not the earlier part of the game. So if Miller didn’t complain about Quarters 1-3, then we’ll take him for his word that bad calls/no-calls were not a problem for him.

  • Treyslap

    I have seen that Miller reach from multiple angles and it most definitely WAS NOT a foul

    • RefCalls staff

      We agree. Miller shouldn’t put his arm in a position like that when the chances of the steal were very low. Gave the ref some doubt that maybe he did touch him. Unfortunately the refs don’t have the same angle on plays like we do, so he should be more careful out there. Surprising that alot of players do this, even veterans. Teams should coach their players of giving the ref an excuse to make the call.