While I'm not an NBA fan, I will occasionally look at the headlines during the playoffs to see who won. This year, with the Dallas Mavericks in the Finals, I was a little more interested. I even watched part of a game...the last five minutes of Game 3, where Dallas blew a 13-point lead.
So I went back to just reading the headlines.
Last night Miami won Game 6, giving them the title. There have already been accusations that the Finals were "fixed" by NBA officials (both on and off the court), with proper counter arguments. The conspiracists say that certain larger markets, say Los Angeles, New York (or Miami,) are preferable over smaller markets to be the NBA Champions. This is either for ratings, advertising revenue, merchandise sales, or similar notions, depending on which crackpot theory you want to believe. In this particular case, I think it's reasonable to say that NBA executives really, really don't like Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, who is wealthy enough to say exactly what he thinks -- and he does -- and absorb a $250,000 fine.
I personally believe that there is something to the theory that the NBA chooses a team to win, and officiating plays a huge part in it. In the late 90's the Lakers received a huge number of favorable calls. (I'm not even a fan, but I grit my teeth remembering a Game Six against Portland....the Trailblazers were robbed.)
While I'm not saying this series was fixed, an interesting statistic came up. Look here:
TOTAL FREE THROWS ATTEMPTED FOR THE WHOLE SERIES:
Miami 207, Dallas 155.
Okay, nothing really unusual about that. Miami's Dwayne Wade drives to the basket a lot and draws more fouls, Dallas is a physical team, etc., etc., so Miami's going to get more chances at the free throw line.
But let's look at how it broke down:
FREE THROWS ATTEMPTED BY GAME:
Game 1 Dallas 26, Miami 19
Game 2 Dallas 28, Miami 32
Game 3 Dallas 26, Miami 34
Game 4 Dallas 27, Miami 36
Game 5 Dallas 25, Miami 49
Game 6 Dallas 23, Miami 37
While starting out slow in the first couple of games, Dallas "learned" how to foul in the last four. In the first two games, Miami shot 49% of the free throws. In the last four games, after Dallas took a 2-0 lead in the series, Miami shot 61% of the free throws.
While not excusing the Mavericks's horrendous choke in Game 3, I find it at least curious that there was a reversal of 24% in the allocation of free throws comparing the first two games to the last four. Note that it's not the fact that Dallas might foul more that's curious (see above), but the reversal in such an important statistic.
A suspicious person might say NBA officials panicked after Game 2 and instructed the refs to do something about it. ("Anything to keep Cuban from winning a championship")
I don't think it would be the first time such a thing has happened. But I'm not really a fan, so what do I know?