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

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

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

Categories: Dallas Mavericks, Miami Heat Tags:
  • Anonymous

    First, let me admit that I don’t know the NBA rulebook at all, but I am fairly certain (~90%) that the NCAA’s and most states’ high school scenario books (does the NBA have a scenario book? usually goes hand-in-hand with the rule book. I assume you refer to the two synonymously if there is one) have a situation where a player is in the air receiving a pass and comes down in the frontcourt. The scenario possibilities focus on where the player’s feet are before they jump in the air. If I remember correctly, the player MUST establish themselves in the frontcourt before jumping in order for the catch to be legal. That means that if they jump off of one foot, that one foot must be in the frontcourt. If they jump off of two feet, both feet must be in the frontcourt. If any part of their foot [feet] is on the half court line, then it is a violation.

    My dad, who officiates high school and junior college ball, shared this EXACT scenario with me from one of his books a few years ago… I don’t recall whether it was for Texas high schools or NCAA. If anyone would care to correct me, since I’m a couple years removed from the conversation, feel free.

    • Matt

      Bingo.  You have backcourt status until you land in the front court, so if you jump from the backcourt, catch the ball, and land in the front court, it’s a backcourt violation.  I got called for that before and argued it for like 5 minutes until the refs explained the rule to me.

  • Julfern

    Analysis is somewhat flawed. You say 12 bad calls against Miami led to 5 points by Dallas. This however does not tell you the story that many of those bad calls against Miami put them in the penalty. This created free throws for Dallas on legitimate non-shooting fouls that turned into points (which however are not counted in this “analysis”).  Why don’t you take those bad calls out and see how many free throws the MAvs would shoot and at which point in the game.  

    • RefCalls-TopFlops staff

      You ignored the fact we use the key word “approximate” a couple of times in the post to account for variables like you mention. When we identify the incorrect calls and no-calls in our video, you are free to come up with a more accurate calculation that takes into account what you’d like to adjust for. Doing that is still a subjective process, so you should use the “approximate” disclaimer, too. For example, a player who gets in foul trouble because of a wrong call may end up not playing as many minutes. That has a slight impact on the ultimate points scored. I’m sure there are many others. So trust us, we have understood for a long time calculating a perfect point differential is very involved and subjective. But using our number as a guideline, it tries to quantify something that has never really been done before so people can start thinking and talking about it, hopefully with the goal that officiating will improve as a result.

      • Monkey1371

        Another effect is on the “defensive
        aggressiveness” all the calls against Miami had.  For example, Miami jumped out
        to a 14 point leads in both the 2nd and 3rd quarter during the early parts of
        those periods.  After numerous “non-shooting fouls” were called against them Dallas was in the Penalty early.   Dallas was able to make there runs to get back in the game during the back half of those quarters while enjoying the luxury of the penalty to curtail the Miami aggressiveness on Defense.

  • RefCalls-TopFlops staff

    It looks like some people don’t know how to read. We state our videos with all the details are coming out throughout the day.

  • RefCalls-TopFlops staff

    Indeed. Kevin Arnovitz tweeted something similar earlier today: “Oddity: Team with more free throw attempts has lost all 3 games of the series.”

  • Anonymous

    I feel like the Mavs are making a conscious effort to avoid contact on Wade or James, especially Chandler early in game 3.  If you’re getting wide open dunks with no help defense, you won’t end up on the free throw line.

    I do feel like the whistle has been uneven.  Seemed like in Game 3 they were favoring guys who were hustling for rebounds.  Dirk was aggressive on the glass (for him) and got bailed out on a few loose ball fouls.

    Everyone besides Chandler (even Dirk) is being allowed to be physical in the paint blocking shots, but then has to back off on the rebound.

    Both teams seem to be setting a lot of moving screens as well.  And flopping when they get screened.  There’s just so much contact and acting that the randomness of the officiating is having a big effect.

    I also feel like Dirk gets a lot of whistles way out on the perimeter, or when being denied the ball.  But if that same level of contact is there while he’s in the shooting motion (be it on the perimeter or in the lane) the whistle doesn’t blow as often.  As a Mavs fan, I feel like the refs almost discourage Dirk from going inside with the ball.  He should just wrestle for position constantly until Mike Miller’s arm hits the random button that triggers the refs whistle.

  • !Dirk!

    Dik Nowitzki – 6
    Jason Kidd – 2
    I LOL’ed it… dik? wth

  • One

    A lot of uncontested dunks by Miami don’t result in FTs.

  • Sinan Atac

    Can you list the 12 favorable calls for Dallas that led to 5 points?

    • RefCalls-TopFlops staff

      Our video is uploading now. It takes alot longer to upload to our new server than YouTube’s uploading process. That was one of the good things about YouTube before they started taking down our videos – quick uploads and processing.

  • RefCalls-TopFlops staff

    Sorry for the delay. The videos are uploading now and they should be up shortly. It’s taking longer with our new video server compared to our old one (YouTube’s). Also, breaking it up into separate videos is taking longer than we thought. Requires more double-checking to make sure we’re picking the right clips and putting them in the same video.

  • RefCalls-TopFlops staff

    Sorry for the delay. The videos are uploading now and they should be up shortly. It’s taking longer with our new video server compared to our old one (YouTube’s). Also, breaking it up into separate videos is taking longer than we thought. Requires more double-checking to make sure we’re picking the right clips and putting them in the same video.

  • RefCalls-TopFlops staff

    Yeah, it was pretty bad for Miami on the loose ball foul front. Our video is uploading now and should be up shortly in a separate post (our new service takes longer than YouTube’s, which we can’t use any more). You should be able to see all of the questionable ones in one of the videos.

  • RefCalls-TopFlops staff

    Yep, it’s kind of strange that they don’t use the same rules for backcourt violation that you would expect for those along the sidelines. For example, the entire halfcourt line counts as the backcourt. On the sidelines if you touch it, it’s out-of-bounds. In football if you break the plane along the goal line, it’s a touchdown. It really makes you wonder why they have a different set of rules for backcourt violations because it doesn’t come naturally for the refs, or anyone else, when it’s happening right in front of you.

  • RefCalls-TopFlops staff

    Haha. Good catch. After reading the rulebook many times, we see little holes like this occasionally. It’s an indicator of how confused the refs might be if they study it too much. So it’s probably easier just to listen to their peers about what they think the rules are, and go with that, all while deviating from the intent of the rules.

  • RefCalls-TopFlops staff

    Not sure what ‘objection’ you are referencing (since I can’t see in our moderator panel wh you are responding to — us or someone else). But if it’s about how to perfectly calculate the point differential on the effect of wrong or missed calls by the refs, you are forgetting about other variables, like if a starter has to go to the bench because of too many wrong calls against him. When that player is out of the game, a player who is not as good has to play, which could effect the team defensively or offensively. Or they may not play as aggressively since they are in foul trouble. That’s why we don’t even try to calculate a 100% accurate point differential — there are just several variables that people can subjectively decide to incorporate into their calculation.

  • RefCalls-TopFlops staff

    Same response from a minute ago would still apply..If it’s about how to perfectly calculate the point differential on the effect of wrong or missed calls by the refs, you are forgetting about other variables, like if a starter has to go to the bench because of too many wrong calls against him. When that player is out of the game, a player who is not as good has to play, which could effect the team defensively or offensively. Or that player in foul trouble may not play as aggressively That’s why we don’t even try to calculate a 100% accurate point differential — there are just several variables that people can subjectively decide to incorporate into their calculation.

  • Sands

    Considering several of the bad / wrong calls led directly to free throws for Dallas because of the penalty I’m curious how, based on “12” wrong calls Dallas only scored 4 points off of them?  It seems like the site is pretty biased that even despite so many more wrong calls favoring Dallas, everything was done specifically to show the Heat still “had the points advantage” from the officiating.

    It also seems like the staff is a bit biased in terms of how they calculate points.  For example, an extra step allowing someone to blow by a defender and score a basket should obviously count quite a bit more then someone who traveled at a meaningless point in the possession well before the points were scored and yet you guys are counting them the exact same.  Realistically speaking here, it’s extremely hard to see these travels in real time so why harp on the fact, and point out the points per possession without differentiating between the times at which a travel occurred.  For example in your game 2 analysis Wade took a baby step behind the rim to pass to LeBron for a 3 pointer.  That counts as points off a travel for the Heat but how is that even comparable to Dirk who scored a layup as a direct result of the travel.  One led to a pass that still required a legal jumper to be made, the other directly resulted in points.  It’s kind of giving off the impression that the staff here has an agenda to serve to show the missed calls, but skew the results in whichever way they want them to go. 

    12 missed calls versus 5 missed calls, quite a few leading to penalty free throws for the Mavericks and yet this site is claiming that the Heat actually got the greater benefit? 

    • RefCalls-TopFlops staff

      Yep, that’s right. We posted videos of all the plays a few minutes ago for everyone to checkout and see for themselves. Many of them were loose ball or ticky-tack foul calls that were not shooting fouls, nor were in the penalty to shoot free throws. That can happen, you know, without throwing out invalid claims that the people evaluating the numbers are biased if it doesn’t make sense in your world.

      We haven’t started calculating points off traveling until this game (Game 3). But in Game 2, that Wade baby step would have counted as points off missed travel because the play wasn’t blown dead because of the travel, and the player who received the pass scored. We’ll be posting the missed travel video for Game 3 sometime tomorrow. So it’s comparable because play continued even with the missed travel. You watch and see what happened in the possession after the missed travel. So no agenda. We are consistent, especially given that we didn’t even calculate “points off missed travels” until Game 3. Look up our analysis of Game 2 and you’ll see we made no such claims of “points off missed travels” to “skew” our analysis in Game 3. Since you questioned us about having an “agenda” or being “biased” without thinking things through or looking up what we didn’t claim in Game 2, perhaps you have an agenda or are biased with that mistaken claim. We understand refs or family members of refs can comment on this page just like anyone else can, trying to protect some sacred cows. Not saying you are, but it surprises us how people get riled up for us (and others) just wanting to hold the refs and league accountable. Jeff Van Gundy is critical of officiating all the time on the ABC/ESPN broadcasts — we can only imagine the grief he is getting from people when he’s critical of the refs or the league rules.

      And your question about “harping on the fact” that refs can’t see travels makes us understand you’re in the camp of just accepting how things are, without even thinking performance can improve among guys who make over $200k per year, if not more. You should read our related post at http://refcalls.com/2011/05/31/if-the-nba-was-a-legendary-restaurant-many-customers-would-want-improvement/ on why fans should care. If it were any other business, people wouldn’t be so accepting of the status quo. But if it’s the NBA, some people give them a free pass.

      • Sands

        I appreciate the response, it was quite unexpected but let me ask a specific question then.

        You failed to list Kidd poking Bosh in the eye as a missed call.  I will admit I have not read the rulebook but I’m pretty sure poking someone in the eye should be considered a foul.  If it’s not then I apologize.  It led to Bosh losing the ball and a 5 on 4 break for Dallas on the other end resulting in a 3 point play as a direct result of the missed foul. 

        It’s a double whammy for the Heat because not only did they lose possession but that same missed call directly resulted in 3 points for the Mavericks.  Is there any reason this missed call is not listed on the site? 

        • RefCalls-TopFlops staff

          It’s coming in the traveling video because it took place a second right after Bosh traveled, b but wasn’t called. If they had called traveling, the poke wouldn’t have mattered. But we’ll show it in that video anyway since, if he hadn’t traveled, it should have been a foul.

  • RefCalls-TopFlops staff

    Yeah, it’s definitely a loophole in the rulebook, which isn’t unusual from our thorough review of it.

  • Yeppy

    Yes not crazy about your formula for points. Most of Wade’s travels are lifting his pivot foot a nanosecond too early. Dirk’s travels are 3, 4, and sometimes 5 steps toward the basket for layups because he is too slow to beat a defender while dribbling. I think the travelling section should either not factor into the point equation unless it’s a drive toward the basket that went it, and only if it’s the end of the play. For instance, if Dirk lifts his pivot foot at the top of the key too early, then drives for a layup and only takes 1 1/2 steps, he should not be penalized for that even if it gave him an advantage off the dribble. A lot of times those pivot travels lead to passes that don’t factor in. 
    When you have game 3 where 13 missed calls for Mavs and only 4 or 5 missed on Heat, and the Heat end up with a point advantage, that makes no sense. Heat are never in the bonus so how do we know if consequent team fouls would have resulted in made FT’s or not?

    • RefCalls-TopFlops staff

      We say the point differential is “approximate” and “rough” all over the place. But the Heat getting more points than Dallas makes perfect sense — they benefitted from more calls.

      We provide the clips, in part, so people can make their own calculations, like you’ve done. If you want to take into account bonus points, you’re free to do the work by looking into the play-by-play and calculating it. Again, we say our numbers are “approximate.”

  • RefCalls-TopFlops staff

    Wrong. You’re completely ignoring the part of the rulebook that we mentioned (that you call long-winded, but are important FACTS) that in the last 2 minutes of the 4th quarter, you can throw it into the backcourt legally. But if you catch it in the frontcourt, then cross over the midcourt line, it’s a backcourt. He didn’t do that.

    The midcourt line is part of the backcourt. That part you got right. When he touched the ball, he had already stepped on it. That means he was in the backcourt when he caught it. That part you probably agree with, too. If he had touched the ball before stepping on the midcourt line, he would have been in the frontcourt, and his momentum with the ball would have taken him into the backcourt. THAT would have been a backcourt violation. End of story. Amazing how people will fight to their death saying things like “forever will be a backcourt violation” without knowing the rules.

    • RefCalls-TopFlops staff

      To add on, in our “long winded” explanation that some people aren’t willing to read, the reason why it’s “long winded” is because the rulebook is nebulous when it comes to this scenario, so you have to sift through all of the different provisions to come up with the correct interpretation.  The NBA could do a better job making their rules more “user friendly.”  Until then, we will do that for folks.  If people can find a different provision that we haven’t found, we welcome it.  But to completely ignore the last 2 minutes rule where you can throw it into the backcourt legally — while putting one’s reputation on the line — is reckless.

  • RefCalls-TopFlops staff

    After looking at hundreds of plays over the past few weeks, they all start to run together. And our moderator panel doesn’t specify well what post a comment is related to very well. If that’s the case, we’ll revise our wording, although the rules seem to indicate it’s still not a backcourt violation.

    • RefCalls-TopFlops staff

      To James Shoe: thought you were talking about the Jason Kidd-Jason Terry inbounds play (our admin panel doesn’t tell us very well what comment a post is related to), so we deleted that explanation, and will provide this one.  The rulebook is pretty clear where we cited the following: A player “is in the backcourt if either the ball or player is touching the backcourt.”

      It’s pretty easy to see Chalmers nor the ball was touching the backcourt, or the line.  When Chalmers caught it, he was in mid-air.  Amazing how ABC threw people off saying at first it was a backcourt violation when he wasn’t even in the air when he caught it.  We provided video for people to checkout, but I guess some people will jump to conclusions and say pretty definitive stuff like “forever” and “end of story” without reading “long winded” explanations that are necessary because the rulebook is so nebulous.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=619154119 Rajan Patel

        Your logic seems to be that since Chalmers was in the air when he caught the pass from Haslem, it is not a backcourt violation.  Is this correct?

        If that is the case, then what would be the case if Haslem would have passed it to Miller instead, who was still well behind the midcourt line, and right before Miller caught the pass, he jumped up in the air, caught the pass with both feet in the air, and then before landing, he shot a three-quarter court shot?  Using the same logic you used for Chalmers, would this hypothetical situation have been a backcourt violation?

        • RefCalls-TopFlops staff

          I think we may have responded on this is in the past (and to you, if we’re not mistaken). It would still be legal. It’s weird, but we responded it’s a loophole in the rulebook. They have rules in there about the ball breaking the plane of the midcourt line going from the backcourt to the frontcourt is considered in the frontcourt once it breaks the plane, but not going the other way. Yet another discrepancy in the rulebook that should be made consistent with the ball going the other way.

          Since it hasn’t happened yet with a watchdog site like this one covering it, the league hasn’t faced the scrutiny to address it. But we’re guessing the refs would do what they normally do with these kinds of plays — not blow the whistle as part of “omission bias” — and hope the rulebook supports it. In this case, it would, even though it doesn’t make much sense, and contradicts the breaking of the midcourt plane if the ball is going the other way.