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Dom vs Bobby: Are the referee foul calls fair to the Thunder?

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The Thunder frequently find themselves in foul trouble in the 2nd halves of games. Are the refs calling it evenly?

“I’m sorry. We don’t get a fair whistle. We haven’t got a fair whistle all year. It is what it is. Someone’s got to look into this.”

Words that tell a story heard from many teams and players from the beginning of time. Fans of the team corroborate them, opponents dismiss them.

Following two games with a remarkable free throw disparity — a combined 93 to 58 gap — the Thunder players have sounded off on the neutrality of the referees. Paul George even deemed it a severe enough offense to be willing accept a $25,000 fine. But are they correct? Is it merely looking through tinted lenses and failing to be objective? Or have the refs, either be intention or subconsciously, called games in opposition of the Thunder?


There are two different approaches that one could use to argue that the refs aren’t being fair to the Thunder. The first is a rational theory based on psychology. The Thunder players, or at least their two leaders, don’t have a reputation for being the nicest to the officials, as shown by their propensity for drawing technical fouls.

The animosity that has built up in this relationship can cause a bias that creeps into the calls the referees make. Refs undoubtedly want to remain impartial as their career and reputation depend on it, but when the pressure rises, those past transgressions and the resulting distrust will influence the 50-50 decisions subconsciously.

HOWEVER.... no one wants that explanation. It’s boring, and it doesn’t explain why Steven Adams fouled out against the Clippers.

So let’s talk about the REALITY of the situation.

The officials involved in the games against Portland and (the good team in) Los Angeles clearly had a reason to call the game wrong. I won’t speculate as to why. But if I told you that not 1, not 2, but 3 (!!!) of the six officials calling those games list The Shawshank Redemption as their favorite movie, would you chalk that up to coincidence?! I think not! The odds of that happening in a world with millions of movies is simply astronomical and unbelievable!

If that isn’t enough proof for you, let’s dig a bit deeper. Mitchell Ervin, one of the officials of the game against Portland, is from New Orleans. If you recall, prior to the Thunder relocation, the New Orleans Hornets spent some time being hosted by Oklahoma City. This stent opened the door for the Seattle SuperSonics to move to OKC. This sparked mass outrage, an outrage that remains for many to this day. Being in the Pacific Northwest, just hours from the abandoned city of Seattle rekindled those feelings of animosity, and it showed in the officiating. CONCLUSIVE EVIDENCE IF I’VE EVER SEEN IT.

But just in case there are a few of you SHEEPLE still skeptical, I’ll give you one last piece of evidence. Ken Mauer was the lead official for the atrocity of a game against the Los Angeles Clippers, a game in which an UNPRECEDENTED three Thunder players fouled out. This level of blatant bias is shocking enough. But when you consider how obvious it is that Mauer is anti-Thunder, consider this. Ken Mauer was born and raised in Minnesota, home of the Timberwolves, a division rival of the Thunder. This is suspicious. But when you consider that his favorite movie is The Adventures of Robin Hood, the puzzle pieces all click into place!

Consider the central premise of Robin Hood. The hero is a thief who steals from the rich to give to the poor. If there are two teams that have represented the NBA poor, they are CLEARLY the Clippers and Timberwolves, both teams that stood to gain from OKC losing that game. Ken Mauer was in a position of power to rob OKC for the sake of lesser teams and could morally feel like a hero. This is hard evidence. GAME. SET. MATCH.

So if you feel like the Thunder aren’t getting a fair shake, you are absolutely right. This conspiracy goes up at least to the head officials, perhaps higher. So feel free to yell at your TV every time a call goes the other way. Because it isn’t right, and it isn’t fair.

Dom: There will be balance to the Force

As usual I come to be the calming voice of reason to these discussions. Unlike Bobby, I’m removing the tin foil hat and looking at the data.

Looking at basketball’s common four factors measures (rebounding, FT/FGA, TOs, and eFG), the Thunder have the 17th highest rate of FTs per field goal attempt, pretty middle of the road. Their defensive FTs per FGA ranks 8th worst, which makes sense because they play a very aggressive defense which will at times create fouls. Look, basketball is a tough game to officiate and, while the referees aren’t perfect, they’re the best in the industry at what they do and are paid for it fairly.

The NBA has every reason to want OKC to do well given it’s got two stars who are very marketable and well liked around the league and by fans. They’ve got proper systems in place to regulate officiating and penalize poor performance. To add given they’ve got a slight history of controversy with Tim Donaghy they’ve got even more reason to ensure everything is fair.

Take off your tin foil hats folks, no conspiracies here.


Are the refs being fair to the Thunder?

This poll is closed

  • 35%
    Dom - peace be with you, the refs do not have it in for the Thunder
    (29 votes)
  • 64%
    Bobby - CONSPIRACY! And also, CONSPIRACY!
    (52 votes)
81 votes total Vote Now