NBA Playoffs- The NBA’s Inconsistency of Officiating Foul Calls

NBA Playoffs- The NBA’s Inconsistency of Officiating Foul Calls

Joey Crawford & Ken Mauer

Louisville, KY May 28, 2015 (Analyzed Sports)   By: Charron Elliott

What is a Flagrant Foul Exactly?: Al Horford Vs. Dwight Howard

After the Golden State Warriors won last night’s game and became the Western Conference Champs, we finally get a chance to look ahead to the NBA Finals right? Well not exactly because a lot of NBA sports writers, analysts, and fans are very confused on some of the calls made by referees in NBA’s Conference Finals games. ” I don’t even know what a flagrant two is anymore,”said ESPN’s Jeff Van Gundy last night jokingly. However after a week of hard fouls made in the NBA Playoffs, I feel like it is important that NBA fans and myself learn more about what is or isn’t a flagrant foul in the NBA.

I will start off by explaining what a common foul, flagrant one foul, and a flagrant two foul are in the NBA. A common foul in the NBA is typically a play on the basketball that is illegal and results in a foul being called by an NBA official. There are several types of common fouls in the NBA and you can learn more about those by clicking here. However common fouls aren’t as costly to a team as either a flagrant one or flagrant two foul, which is why I specifically listed the rules on those in the paragraphs below.

Flagrant “1” (FFP1) – unnecessary contact committed by a player against an opponent. The opposing team is awarded two (2) free throws and possession. (via nba.com)

Flagrant “2” (FFP2) – unnecessary and excessive contact committed by a player against an opponent. The opposing team is awarded two (2) free throws and possession and the player committing the foul is automatically ejected. (via nba.com)

 So now that I have given all of my readers the rules on flagrant fouls let’s see if officials actually enforce these rules. This is a play made away from the ball on Sunday in Game three of the Eastern Conference Finals between the Atlanta Hawks and Cleveland Cavaliers.

As you can see Hawks forward, Al Horford, throws his elbow into Cleveland’s Matthew Dellavedova shoulder. Now obviously this wasn’t a play on the basketball and it definitely was unnecessary so it is a flagrant foul. Now for the magic word EXCESSIVE, which means unusual or unreasonable action, is this play by Horford unreasonable? Well to me personally yes and NBA official Tony Brothers and lead official Ken Mauer thought so as well.

Screenshot_2015-05-28-16-57-32-2

Photo From: NBA Officials Twitter Account

Now why some NBA analysts or fans  would argue Mauer’s call is because Horford didn’t connect with Dellavedova’s face. An argument like that one can be debated but let’s look at the rules more in-depth when determining a flagrant one foul call and a flagrant two foul call.

1. The severity of the contact;

2. Whether or not the player was making a legitimate basketball play (e.g., whether a player is making a legitimate effort to block a shot; note, however, that a foul committed during a block attempt can still be considered flagrant if other criteria are present such as recklessness and hard contact to the head);

3. Whether, on a foul committed with a player’s arm or hand, the fouling player wound up and/or followed through after making contact;

4. The potential for injury resulting from contact (e.g., a blow to the head and a foul committed while a player is in a vulnerable position);

5. The severity of any injury suffered by the offended player; and

6. The outcome of the contact (e.g., whether it led to an altercation).

NOTE: Each team will continue to be held responsible for the actions of its players on the court. Accordingly, if any individual player or team (collectively) commits, in the judgment of the League Office, an excessive number of flagrant fouls during the Playoffs, the player and/or that team’s Head Coach will be subject to appropriate fines and/or suspensions. ( Rules via nba.com)

In my opinion if Horford would have connected with that elbow to the head of Dellavedova, it could have been an even worse situation. The only reason I could think of for Horford being able to play in Game four on Tuesday is that he didn’t connect that elbow to Dellavedova’s head.The technical foul on Dellavedova to me is very debatable, due to the fact it looks like he could have been possibly trying to go for Horford’s legs. Now the plays made by Dwight Howard of the Houston Rockets in the last two games of the Western Conference Finals have definitely raised some questions about officiating.

First off in Game four of the Western Conference Finals Dwight made this play on Golden State Warriors center, Andrew Bogut.

Here is another questionable play made by Howard in Game five of the Western Conference Finals against Andre Iguodola of the Golden State Warriors.

First off I will tell everyone who didn’t know already that neither of these plays were ruled as a flagrant two fouls by the officials. The foul Howard made on Bogut was ruled as a flagrant one and the foul he committed on Iguodola was ruled as JUST a COMMON FOUL. Confusing I know, but let’s see why these foul calls were made. “Howard was trying to extricate himself from Bogut and recklessly hit him in the face with an open hand. The contact was unnecessary but was not deemed excessive by the officials working the game with the aid of the replay center. And we don’t see a reason to modify the call.”  Those were the words spoken by Rod Thorn who is the executive president of basketball operations in the NBA about the call made on Howard in game four.

The lead official for Game four was Joey Crawford and the lead official for game five was Ken Mauer. Looking at the rules again two guidelines to me that standout are the player following through with the arm/hand and the severity of injury. In the first video Howard gives Bogut straight elbow to the nose but does he follow through with the elbow? Well considering how far back he rocked Bogut’s head, he doesn’t get the chance too. The severity of the injury to me is that Howard elbowed Bogut right in the nose, thus he could have broken it. However Crawford still didn’t call this a flagrant two foul, which by rule it should have been or maybe I am just a crazy 22-year-old sportswriter. Also this play isn’t a play on the basketball and is very excessive at least to me because it looks like Howard intended to hurt Bogut.

As for the play on Iguodola, after looking at it multiple times it looks as if Howard elbows him right on his left shoulder and he slightly shoves Iguodola as well. Now I want to remind readers that the officials in this game were again Tony Brothers and lead official Ken Mauer. With that being said the contact that took place between Iguodola was enough in which it should have been at least called a flagrant one by rule. Howard set an illegal screen using his forearms high causing Andre Iguodola to sustain a left shoulder injury. However as I stated earlier this wasn’t even ruled a flagrant one foul, it was ruled a common foul! The ironic thing is that had Houston beat Golden State and Howard been called for a flagrant foul, he would have had to sit out game six. Also if the league decides to upgrade that foul to a flagrant foul Howard would have to sit out the first NBA regular season game of 2015-2016. All of this is because Dwight Howard would have picked up his second flagrant foul and by rule a player has to sit out a game after picking up two flagrant fouls.

With the NBA Finals beginning next week, the thing a lot of sports fans and writers are wondering is will we get consistency? The last thing the NBA needs is its officials inconsistent calls overshadowing what could be an epic NBA Finals. The 2015 NBA Finals is supposed to be a battle of the MVPs (Most Valuable Players)  in LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors. However the “Most Valuable Participants”  in the NBA Finals will be the referees and how they call fouls in this series.

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