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Miami-Dallas (NBA Finals Game 3): Initial review of ref calls gives Miami a 4-point advantage

June 6th, 2011 32 comments

For our review of Game 3 of the Dallas-Miami game, we’re going to do a few things differently from previous posts.

Rather than create one large video that takes tons of hours to put together and upload that’s published almost 24 hours after the game has ended, we’re going to break it up into chunks and spread their release throughout the day (Monday).

Before we describe the order we’ll be posting these videos, we have made some approximate calculations about the wrong and missed calls by the refs from Game 3. So let’s get to that:

Missed travels still are the big ref-oriented theme of this series. We calculated the refs missing approximately 14 travels by the Heat, and 9 by the Mavericks. Twelve points were scored by the Heat in those possessions where their travels were missed, and 7 for the Mavericks. That’s a 5-point deficit for Dallas in a very close 2-point game.

Here’s the breakdown of whose travels were missed (some of these travels were minor in nature that hardly any referee calls, but are technically travels according to the NBA rulebook).

Miami (14):
LeBron James – 7
Chris Bosh – 5
Dwyane Wade – 1
Joel Anthony – 1

Dallas (9):
Dik Nowitzki – 6
Jason Kidd – 2
Jose Barea – 1

Excluding missed travels, we counted the refs missing or getting wrong 12 calls that favored Dallas resulting in 5 points being scored directly because of those calls, and 5 calls/no-calls that favored Miami resulting in 4 points. That’s a 1-point advantage for Dallas.

So taking into account the 5-point advantage the Heat had with the missed travels, and 1-point advantage Dallas had for wrong or missed calls not involving missed travels, you get a 4-point net advantage for the Heat. Please keep in mind this is an approximate figure.

When you see the videos that are released throughout the day on Monday, you’ll be able to see the details of these calls on a call-by-call basis.

What’s the deal with the alleged backcourt violation involving Mario Chalmers?

Before working on our videos, we wanted to address one of the more confusing no-calls that occurred at the end of the 1st quarter right before Miami’s Mario Chalmers hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer.

You might remember that Chalmers had stepped on the half court line as he was about to receive a pass. The ABC coverage was very confusing because at first they said he had committed a backcourt violation, then later said he didn’t after a closer look at the rules. But then if you read what others are writing after the game, they are saying that he a backcourt violation should have been called, thus wiping out the chance of that 3-pointer ever getting made.

Well, we looked at the rulebook to find out for ourselves since it’s a pretty rare scenario. If you’ve been reading what we’ve been writing on this site over the past few weeks, you probably have picked up on the theme about how the rulebook is detailed in some areas, nebulous in others, and just has huge gaps in other parts.

We believe this scenario involving Chalmers falls into the last category — in a gap. It’s not clearly explained what should be ruled, but if you go through the process of elimination, we have come to the conclusion that it was NOT a backcourt violation. Here’s why:

Chalmers’ foot wasn’t on the halfcourt line when he caught the pass. He actually jumped into the air to catch the ball, then came down in the frontcourt. This is a fatal flaw that ABC and others have been assuming for some reason, when the video clearly shows he wasn’t.

So you have to look in the rulebook for the scenario where a player catches the ball in mid-air when he hasn’t been in the frontcourt yet. Unfortunately, that specific scenario is not specifically spelled out. But there is this provision that provides some clarity:

A ball being held by a player: (1) is in the frontcourt if neither the ball nor the player is touching the backcourt, (2) is in the backcourt if either the ball or player is touching the backcourt.

#1 above would apply since Chalmers and the ball weren’t in the backcourt as he caught the pass.

What ABC and other “experts” might be thinking is that Chalmers still had a backcourt status because he hadn’t established a position in the frontcourt yet, especially since the entire midcourt line is considered to be part of the backcourt.

But the rulebook only specifies a player has not attained frontcourt/backcourt status “until a player with the ball has established a positive position in either half during (1) a jump ball, (2) a steal by a defensive player, (3) a throw-in in the last two minutes of the fourth period and/or any overtime period or (4) any time the ball is loose.”

Since none of these four situations apply to Chalmers, then we have to throw out the whole argument of Chalmers needing to attain a position in the frontcourt before he catches the ball. That’s clearly not written here. As a result, we can only rely on the rule in blockquotes above, which has nothing to do with having frontcourt status first.

As a result, love it or hate it, the refs “no-call” involving Chalmers was the correct one, and his 3-pointer at the buzzer was legitimate. But we suggest the rulebook be amended to account for the Chalmers scenario so it’s more clear. And while they’re at it, we’d love for the NBA to contact us so we can give them some suggestions on how to make other parts of the rulebook more clear.

Our video posting schedule on Monday:

Here’s how we plan to release videos on Monday:

Ref calls and no-calls (non-traveling related) that penalized…
1) Dallas (the calls that went against the losing team will be published first)
2) Miami

Missed traveling calls that wrongly impacted…
3) Dallas
4) Miami
*As a result, if you don’t care about watching missed travels so much, you can skip these videos.

5) Calls the refs got right, were inconclusive, or are in a “catch-all” category

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