Somehow whining about foul calls doesn’t seem to suit head coach Frank Vogel’s “Smash-Mouth” Pacers, but by all indications his complaining hasn’t fallen on deaf ears.
Suddenly, after leading the Eastern Conference in free throw attempts by a huge margin over the hack-a-Drummond brick-layer all season, DeMar DeRozan can’t get any respect from the officials. No the Pacers haven’t stopped bumping, hitting and what used to be called fouling the Raptors All-Star, but the NBA Officials appear to have pocketed their whistles whenever DeRozan has the ball.
Whining about calls has been an on-going strategy by Vogel who was fined $10,000 by the league for criticizing officials after losing to Toronto in the Raptors October home opener and it’s continued right up through the first two games of the playoffs.
“They’re going to throw their bodies into us, snap their heads back and swing their arms through legal defenders and hope the whistle blows,” Vogel told the Indianapolis media right before the playoffs started.
If you’re not going to change the way you play, the next best strategy is to get the way the game is officiated changed. Only through the rose-colored glasses of a head coach do the Pacers not foul on a regular basis.
The Pacers know they have no chance in this series if DeRozan continues to average 11 free throw attempts per game against them and it’s getting hard not to suspect the NBA officials have been instructed to view the game through Vogel’s eyes or maybe that should be Pacers All-Star Paul George’s eyes?
“The foul Kyle (Lowry) drew on me was a cheap foul,” George said after Game Two. “(The referee) came over and told me he messed up, but it happens.”
That in a nutshell sums up how the Raptors-Pacers series has been called to-date. If the Pacers foul, they are “cheap fouls” that the referees can or should choose to ignore. If the Raptors foul, well that’s another story.
Toronto played Indiana four times during the regular season and the Raptors guards absolutely torched them averaging 48 points per game. That’s changed in the postseason with a pocketed whistle at one end of the court.
In those four regular season games, Indiana was called for 27.8 fouls per game and the Raptors averaged 35.3 free throw attempts. Through two playoff games, the Pacers foul rate has dropped to 24 and the Raptors are taking 31.5 free throws.
The Raptors are the other hand are being hit with 26 personal fouls per game and the Pacers are enjoying 28.5 free throw attempts. That’s up from 21.3 Raptors fouls and 22.5 Pacers freebees in the regular season.
The impact of these swings is huge and it’s about the only way a seventh place team can hang with a second place team in the postseason.
The Pacers haven’t suddenly become hands-free in the playoffs and Toronto undisciplined. These games are being called differently from the regular season. Maybe it should be head coach Dwane Casey pointing out how the Pacers have been getting the “cheap fouls called” and it’s his guys getting knocked to the hardwood instead of talking about changing the way his guys have to play?
“How much did Stan Van Gundy get fined the other night?” Casey said. “The onus is on us to adjust. We got to adjust to whatever charge or whatever way the officials are going to go.
“Whatever way they are going to call it, we have to adjust to that and that’s what I told our team. If they are not going to call it, you have to go to plan ‘B’ and I think DeMar is smart enough to do that and he’s got to do that if they are not going to give him the calls when he’s attacking the paint, attacking the basket.”
This isn’t the way the NBA usually treats their All-Stars. Everyone has seen it. When an All-Star guard hits the deck trying to drive into the paint, they get the call and unless the NBA wants to become like FIBA, a jump shooting league devoid of spectacular plays at the rim, that’s they way the game has to be called.
What’s been happening in Toronto is flat out disrespect. This isn’t how the NBA game is played or officiated.
Equally disappointing is the lack of support DeRozan has been getting from the local Toronto media. It’s as if it’s DeRozan’s fault that he’s been laid out on the court without drawing the foul. Where’s the home field advantage in Toronto? Unfortunately, the Toronto media has a history of shoving dirt on all of their professional teams stars.
Even without any help from a more even-handed attempt to referee this series, the Raptors should still be able to eventually move past the very one-dimensional, one-player Pacers. They have the depth of talent the Pacers are trying to rebuild to after losing so many key pieces over the past couple of seasons.
However, what’s been happening so far is a discouraging sign. The NBA is first and foremost an entertainment property with preferred outcomes – not to be confused with fixed – players still determine who wins and loses, but with the way this series is being officiated, it doesn’t look like Toronto is one of those preferred outcomes this season.
Maybe it’s time Casey just paid the fine. It’s a lot better solution than sitting DeRozan in the fourth quarter or turning him into pure jump shooter.