The Houston Rockets have recently been voicing their frustrations to the NBA about how they believe they were robbed in last year’s playoffs. They have claimed that there was a total of 81 missed calls in Game 7 of last year’s series against the Golden State Warriors in a memo that they intended to send to the league. Within the memo, they also claimed that "Referees likely changed the eventual NBA champion," in which the league disagreed with. The memo also stated how they believe that the league should add a fourth ref on the court and that the league make full-game reports available to every team. The Rockets truly believe that they would have won the 2018 NBA Finals had they gotten a few more calls to go their way, which I do not think is entirely true.
In Game 7 of the series, the Rockets missed an NBA record 37 threes on 44 attempts, with 27 of those misses being in a row. James Harden himself went 2-13 from behind the arc and had also missed 18 consecutive threes from Game 6 and 7 combined. Despite the terrible display of second-half shooting, they also surrendered a 15-point lead. It is kind of hard to argue that you would have won the game, let alone a championship if you had received a couple of more foul calls when you are shooting that poorly as a team from three. Every team loves to start blaming the officials when they are playing badly and basically trying to force the refs into giving them some pity calls. Just because you aren’t hitting shots does not mean that the refs should be more generous with their foul calls, they are just going to call the game as fairly as they can. Having said that, I can see where the Rockets are coming from in terms of the Warriors getting some favorable calls throughout this year’s playoffs.
The NBA refs have been terribly inconsistent in this year’s playoffs with fouls on three-pointers. In this year’s rematch between the Rockets and Warriors, there has been a lot of controversy with the Warriors getting more fouls on three-pointers than the Rockets. In Game 1 alone there seemed to have been at least four missed calls on three-point attempts between James Harden and Chris Paul along. James Harden takes a lot of contested three-pointers, and nearly almost every time it looked like Klay Thompson or Draymond Green fell in his landing area on their closeouts. Sure, Harden loves to be overly dramatic to get some extra calls but in this situation, he has a valid argument. Also, in Game 1, Chris Paul clearly got fouled on a straight away three by Shaun Livingston and did not receive a call which resulted in CP3 and Mike D’Antoni receiving technical fouls. A potential four-point play turned into two free throws for the Warriors and their eventual victory in that game.
The inconsistency on these calls have left players and coaches very confused on what is actually a foul on the jump shooter. This has been an issue for the last couple of years, but it has been magnified in this year’s playoffs. The rule states that you must let the shooter land and is entitled to space to land without obstruction. This was looked at more closely when Kawhi Leonard landed on Zaza Pachulia’s foot and was out for the rest of the series against the Warriors. Half of the time someone takes a three the shooter is getting knocked over or lands on someone’s foot. The Rockets do have a somewhat valid argument when it comes to lack of fouls on three-pointers and the efforts to improve on those calls need to get better. A portion of their memo stated that “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." I agree with this statement; it seems like the league is telling everyone that they are working to “improve” on making these calls but really not making any changes. If this continues it will just lead to more controversy and player frustration that the league just does not need any more of.
At the end of the day, nobody is perfect and NBA refs will miss calls, which has always been a part of the game and always will be. Players just want to see an effort being made in trying to improve on the consistency of the calls and to just make the game as even as possible. The Rockets are probably very accurate in their report, and they do have a valid argument. However, just because you did not receive a few more foul calls, does not mean that they would have won the NBA Finals. Hopefully, we see some improvement next season on the consistency of these calls, and also receive a clearer definition of what constitutes a foul.