By now you’ve probably heard about the Utah Jazz victory over the Washington Wizards last night. If you didn’t, let me catch you up. The Jazz were up by 10 early, but the Wizards made a game of it, even taking the lead in the fourth. However, the Butler connection of Gordon Hayward and Shelvin Mack got things done on offense in the fourth. Bradley Beal tried his best. But without John Wall making shots it was just too much for a tired Wizards squad playing their third game in four nights on this long road trip.
Wall, who during the course of the game was assessed a technical foul, was unhappy with things after the game. He points out that there was a 31 to 16 free throw disparity between the home team and the visitors. And he feels as though his guys were somehow cheated out of a chance to win through the efforts of the referees.
Furthermore, he sounded off on how he can’t sound off.
Does he have a point? Maybe? I think the refs missed some calls that hurt both teams. I do remember Gordon Hayward getting a ‘blocked shot’ against a Markieff Morris attempt that upon replay seemed to have been Gordon getting ‘all hand’ and very little ball. This happened in the fourth quarter near the 2 minute mark; however, it was 2:25 - and as a result, not going to be in the L2M report.
Apparently this was not the only time this thing happened on the night, according to some sources. At that point in time the Jazz were up 87-83. Two FTA for Morris might have made a difference there, instead the Jazz went the other way and made one of two free throws putting the team up by five.
So Wall does have a reason to gripe. And that reason is: there aren’t six refs on the court who go to the video replay all 48 minutes of the game to make sure every call is correct after every whistle.
It’s not fair, but it is what it is.
What is also what it is are quantitative statistics. Those we can look at. And those don’t really help Wall out.
This season it’s undeniable that the Wizards make magic happen on offense. According to Basketball-Reference.com they play at the 11th fastest pace in the league, 97.4 possessions a game; and have the 8th best O-RTG with 111.2 per 100.0 possessions. Those two things work together to produce 109.3 ppg, 5th best in the league.
That said, they are a jump shooting team, 20.62% of their 6,633 FGA this season have been 3PTA. They get to the line, on average, 22.2 times a game, and make 17.4. That’s 23rd best at getting there, and 20th best at making them. But these things are inflated by their pace of play, and even then they aren’t that impressive. Their FT/FGA ratio is .200, that’s 22nd.
According to stats.nba.com they only achieve 16.0 % of their total points from FTs. Last night they scored 88 points. What’s 16.0 % of 88 points? That’s 14.08 points. They scored 13.00 from the line last night. So, yeah, on average they were jobbed 1.08 points off their average. But they did not have an average performance last night. Far from it.
Again, their pace is 97.4 possessions a game, and the game last night was 90.6 possessions a piece according to espn.com - so there were fewer opportunities to shoot, get fouled, and ultimately score. Furthermore, their offensive abilities were not average either. Their ORTG is 111.2 points per 100.0 possessions. Last night against the defensively adept and focused Utah Jazz their ORTG was just 97.1.
There were -6.8 possessions in this game than average for Washington. And Washington was -14.1 in ORTG compared to their average. As a result, it’s silly to expect to get the average number of FTA. Also, there’s this thing called “playing on the road”. I get that the Wizards have pretty stable splits between home and road this season. But sometimes things don’t always work out.
But moving away from the refs and back to the math, if you know how to cross multiply you can figure some more things out.
The Wizards, again on average, get 22.1 FTA / 100 possessions. That’s 24th “best” in the NBA. Sure, I know Wall is creating the fable that his team gets to the line a lot because of their style of play. But you guys sure do take a lot of jumpers for a team that’s supposed to go to the line.
If you cross multiply for the 90.6 pace game you get Washington getting to the line 20.02 times, instead of their regular 22.1. So that’s already two FTA fewer. 20 is larger than the 16 they got, but is there more here?
Yes there is.
That 20.0 FTA / 90.6 possessions value is just a straight application for speed of the game. But that’s not the only factor at play. There’s the factor of capability. The wizards were playing at a -14.1 ORTG, usually only get 16% of their total points from free throws, were on the road, and were already not that great at getting to the line.
If you multiply the pace adjusted FTA (20.0) against the offensive quality adjustment for FTA, you get Washington getting to the line 17.48 times.
17.48 is larger than the 16 they got.
And 14.08 is larger than the 13 they made.
That’s fully rectified if Morris got the FTs in the 4th quarter instead of having his shot get called as a block. That’s completely rectified and more because 2 more FTA would be half a FTA more than what the math says would have been the right amount for them.
So is Wall complaining about his team getting 16 FTA when they should have gotten 17.48? I guess so. And I guess that’s valid.
But that’s only half the story. I think he was upset about the FTA disparity. And I get that. 31 is a bigger number than 16. But unlike Washington, Utah does get to the line regularly as a part of their “actually driving to the basket” offense.
Utah’s FT/FGA ratio is 11th best in the NBA. Their 17.3% of all their points being from the line is 14th best in the NBA. Even though they play at the slowest pace in the NBA, they get to the line the 15th most times per game, 23.2 FTA. And that balloons up to 24.7 FTA per 100 possessions, which is 8th best in the league.
While this game was slower than average pace for the Jazz, and the Jazz had a lower ORTG, they were of smaller margins. (91.6 Pace average vs. 90.6 for the game; 109.2 ORTG average vs. 104.9 for the game.) You can counter that against the fact that Utah was at home, and were playing most of the night against a team without any shot blockers . . . you can see how the Jazz were driving more and rolling more to the basket. This inference is validated by the Jazz posting a higher FT/FGA ratio in this game (.219 average vs. .264 in this game).
More of Utah’s points come from free throws, they get to the line more frequently, and did attack the basket pretty hard in this game. Take a look at the shot charts for the two teams. Utah shot threes and in the paint. Washington shot a tremendous amount from both three and deep mid-range.
Getting bored of this? I am. But to recap: Washington shot 16 FTA when perhaps they should have shot 17. They clearly should have gone to the line at least two more times in the fourth than they did. John Wall is right about that. Barely. Utah is the superior team at getting to the line, and when Scott Brooks went small, it opened the door for Utah to attack the basket more.
Also, Washington played this game out, fouling the Jazz when down in order to extend the game. Four of those mighty 31 FTA came in the last 30 seconds of the game. A 27 to 16 FTA disparity doesn’t look as horrendous. Especially not for a road team playing against one of the better teams out West, right?
Maybe it does still to you, and John Wall. Well, what’s also horrendous was shooting 6/22.
Yeah, you missed some shots in the paint. That doesn’t mean you were fouled. It’s just really, really hard to score on Rudy Gobert. You did go 2/8 from outside the paint too. If you can’t shoot better than 6/22 against Dante Exum and Shelvin Mack then maybe it’s not just about fouls. Getting to the line is fun and great, especially for star players. Wall is.
For the season Wall is averaging 6.8 FTA/G. That’s, again, an average based upon a Wizards game where they play 97.4 possessions. Tonight’s game was at only 90.6. I did the math, when you adjust for pace that means expecting to get to the line nearly 7 times wasn’t going to happen, unless his performance increased. It didn’t last night. He played worse on offense.
Should he have gone to the line only 4 times? Maybe? Maybe not. Give him two more FTA, give Morris those two more FTA. Take away the four that Washington were forced to give up in the closing seconds of this game. That makes it at 20 FTA for Washington, 27 FTA for UTA difference.
Does that make Wall happier?
Let’s even go so far to give the Wizards four extra points and take away the three othe Jazz made from the line to finish the game (on four attempts). Now the score is UTA 92 - WAS 92.
At this point you have a completely even game. That’s somewhat close to the 42 WAS - 40 UTA scores from the 2nd and 3rd quarters. But the difference in the game was the first and fourth.
Refs are going to miss some calls, buddy. I think Washington is a dangerous club. Wall is right to complain about maybe 1-2 calls. But if you suppose that the Jazz won this game because they got to the line (dude, they shot 61.3% from there) you are incorrect. I think their fourth quarter steals and rebounds did it. Not the ref jobbing you guys.
But that’s opinion and not based on the math. Based on the math the game could have been closer. But that doesn’t mean the refs calling more fouls on the Jazz wouldn’t have also meant more calls on the other side of the court as well. After all, refs are subjective. And it’s tough to get into the ‘what if’ game.