Tension between NBA players and the referees has never been more palpable. Headlined by Draymond Green and Kevin Durant, players around the league are voicing their frustrations about the officiating. Everyone thinks their team deserves better calls in their favor, but are the Warriors wronged more than other teams?
A study done by The Pudding examined how many incorrect calls and incorrect non-calls (missed calls) the NBA reversed in its Last Two Minute Reports. This shows which teams were getting the short end of the stick on calls in crucial minutes of tight games and which squads might be receiving more bias from the refs. Five Thirty Eight then assessed which teams had the most calls go against them in those final minutes of close games.
According to the analysis, Golden State is one of the most accurately officiated teams in the NBA. It's limited to a small sample, though, taking into consideration only the final minutes of tight games.
The Warriors have not had any bad calls go against them in the final two minutes of games within three points but have had 11 wrong no-calls against them, tied for sixth-fewest in the NBA.
Are they involved in enough close games for their bad-call total to represent how frequently they are wronged?
The Warriors have only played in 16 games where the score was within three points in the final two minutes. With 11 calls against them, that's 0.688 bad calls per game, 12th-most in the league.
The fact they've only played in 16 games in which the score was within three points in the final two minutes—the second-fewest in the league—suggests the Warriors have been affected by bad calls at a slightly-above-average rate. That means they might be hurt even more if they were in more close games.
Looking through the lens of late-game calls is important, but it's limiting in terms of what type of respect the Warriors get from officials.
Looking at foul calls in general, the Warriors are 26th in the NBA in fouls drawn per game. This could result from the fact that they average, by far, the fewest drives, meaning their lack of physicality deters their ability to draw fouls. The Warriors drive 23.3 times per game; just 11 teams drive fewer than 40 times, and the Warriors are the only one that drives fewer than 32 times.
Green wouldn't comment on the matter when asked earlier this week, but head coach Steve Kerr, who famously deleted a tweet that criticized the refs for missing a travel call, hasn't held back. In 2016 he went off on the refs for ignoring these kinds of calls:
"I can literally put together a blooper reel of plays that are embarrassing travels that are just not called. I believe it's a case of they have so many things to look at—they are looking at defensive three seconds, the contact in the lane when people are cutting through the lane, they're looking at the charge and block circle—they're looking at everything except what they should be looking at which is the basic rule of the game, which is traveling.
"And it's a shame because guys are getting away with murder out there and the fans see it. My favorite is when you see the visiting team travel and you see like a thousand fans in the background all doing the traveling signal with their hands. If those people saw it, how come the refs didn't?"
There are always going to be times when a team or its players feel unfairly called. While the Warriors may not be getting the short end of the stick on late-game calls, individual players might be on shorter leashes than others.
The Pudding also provided an interesting graphic that showed specific players who have been involved in at least 15 corrected plays, on which three Warriors—Green, Durant and Zaza Pachulia—appeared.
Pachulia was roughly even with calls against and in favor. Durant had more calls go against him than calls go in his favor, so he may have the right to complain. Green, however, had more than 20 calls go in his favor while fewer than 10 went against him.
Green is tied atop the NBA with 14 technical fouls (excluding one that was rescinded), and Durant is not far behind, sitting at fourth with 12 techs. As a whole, Golden State is fourth in the league in total team technicals. Durant and Green also lead the NBA in ejections, with four and three respectively, and the Warriors lead the NBA in ejections with nine. For context, the Phoenix Suns are second in ejections with five.
"I do," teammate Stephen Curry said when asked if he thinks Green has experienced unfair treatment. "He has a certain mannerism about him, a certain disposition that is different than other people, just off jump. I've been out on the court when you're just looking around, like, why did he get a tech? He didn't say anything. He didn't do anything demonstrative. I've seen way worse have a blind eye turned to it."
Durant added that the players need to take it upon themselves to dissipate some of the tension.
"We've got to do a better job of just focusing on the game at times, but there's passion involved," Durant recently told B/R's Ken Berger. "And sometimes it's heat of the moment, and we get that. It's never personal."
This whole saga seems to be a feedback loop, where Durant and Green, like plenty of other players, don't feel they are getting the right calls. As a result, they complain and get a technical or an ejection. These events are more random than intentional, and whether it feels like it or not, the Warriors aren't being wronged more than every other team when it matters most.