The Los Angeles Lakers and the Golden State Warriors are locked in a heated battle for a spot in the Western Conference Finals. The Lakers have a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series, after dominating the Warriors in Game 3 with a 127-97 victory. However, some fans and analysts have raised questions about the fairness of the officiating, especially after Warriors forward Draymond Green expressed his frustration in his postgame interview.
Did Draymond Green Accuse NBA Referees of Cheating for the Lakers?
Green, who had a patented triple single in Game 3, complained about the number of fouls called against his team, which he said disrupted their rhythm and favored the Lakers’ style of play. He seems to believe that was the only reason Lakers won the game, and even went as far as to say Warriors don’t need to make any adjustments, because they can’t control officiating. He also said he won’t change his individual style of play, because of how the game is being called.
Green seemed to insinuate that the refs were intentionally calling fake fouls on the Warriors to help the Lakers, who mainly score in the paint with their star duo of LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Is there any truth to Green’s claims? As you’ll see below a look at the free throw stats for the series reveals a striking disparity between the two teams, which has fueled the cheating conspiracy theory.
Lakers vs Warriors Free Throw Stats
In Game 1, which the Lakers won 117-112, they had 29 free throw attempts to the Warriors’ 6. In Game 2, which the Warriors won by 30 points, the free throw attempts were about even, with the Lakers taking 17 and the Warriors taking 16. In Game 3, however, the gap widened again, with the Lakers taking 37 free throws to the Warriors’ 17.
In total, the Lakers have taken 83 free throws in three games, while the Warriors have only taken 39. That’s a difference of 44 free throws, or an average of almost 15 per game. That’s a significant advantage for the Lakers, who have scored 66 more points from the line than the Warriors. The formula seems to be when Lakers get a lot of foul calls they are tough to beat, and when they don’t they can’t hang with the Warriors.
Are NBA Referees Really Cheating the Warriors, or a Lakers Executing a Pristine Game Plan?
One factor that might debunk the cheating conspiracy theory is that the Lakers play a more forceful style based on paint scoring, while the Warriors usually rely on outside shooting. The Lakers rank first in the league in points in the paint per game (54.8), while the Warriors rank 25th (41.8). The Lakers also rank first in field goal attempts within five feet of the basket (34.4), while the Warriors rank 23rd (26.4). Conversely, the Warriors rank second in three-point attempts per game (41.3), while the Lakers rank 21st (31). These stats could explain the free throw disparity in theory.
Therefore, it could be argued that the Lakers naturally draw more fouls because they attack the rim more often, while the Warriors avoid contact by shooting from long range. This would explain why the free throw disparity was smaller in Game 2, when Lakers were not as aggressive at attacking the basket.
Of course, this does not mean that every foul call was correct or consistent. There may have been some questionable calls or non-calls that favored one team over another. However, to suggest that there is a deliberate bias or conspiracy by the refs to cheat for the Lakers is what some people call a stretch that lacks solid evidence. Especially coming from a Warriors team that many people believe cheated in 2017 by purposely injuring Kawhi’s ankle, which led to the a rule change in the NBA for allowing players to land cleanly after jump shots.
The reality is that both teams have to play through adversity and adjust to different situations. The Warriors have to deal with size and depth disadvantages against a bigger and deeper Lakers squad, which naturally should lead to more free throws for the bigger team since smaller players are more prone to fouling in the paint.
The series is far from over, and both teams still have a chance to advance to the next round. The only thing that matters is who plays better on both ends of the floor, not who gets more calls from the refs.