Beneficiaries or aggressors?
Tom Haberstroh is a well-respected writer in the NBA blogosphere, and covers the Heat for ESPN. He went back and watched game one to see if complaints of the +24 free throw count for the Heat over the Sixers were warranted. He comes to the conclusion that the massive free throw disparity was simply a result of a more aggressive team, rather than an unfair referee bias.
The 39-to-15 free throw disparity wasn't an indictment on the refs, but a product of two wildly different playing styles.
Haberstroh also brings up each team's free throw rate during the regular season.
[Collins] should know that the Sixers have the worst free throw rate in the league. And the Heat? They're the second-most frequent visitors to the charity stripe in the league, not because they're chummy with their refs. It's because they have three of the most aggressive foul-drawers in the game who aren't afraid of contact.
Haberstroh cites the Sixers' shot selection as the main reason for the Sixers lack of free throw attempts.
The Sixers got their points on jumpers and I really had a tough time finding questionable foul calls. Almost every time down the floor, especially in the first half, Philadelphia would work the ball around the perimeter and find the open space to take a jump shot in a pocket of the Heat's defense. Jodie Meeks from downtown.
That's how it went. Overall, the Sixers took 39 jump shots according to Synergy Sports video tracking. The shots they got off at the rim were mostly either clean Thaddeus Young putbacks or fast break flourishes.
As a fan I've always been opposed to blaming the referees for a loss, unless a single, blatantly poor call in the waning seconds altered the outcome of the game. I voiced my opinion plenty on the free throw disparity yesterday, and made it a point to bring up the staggering numbers. But as a sports fan, you're always going to believe the calls are going against your favorite team. Always. I could've sworn there were more than a handful of questionable calls during of yesterday's game, but unless I chose to re-watch the game in a calmer, unbiased state of mind (which I'm not), I'll give the benefit of the doubt to a well-respected writer's presumably objective opinion and fact-based argument.