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Clippers Vs. Grizzlies - O.J. Mayo on Selling Calls


Both teams are trying to play physical, but one team is a little better at acting than the other team. Those guys do flop. They're great players. It's working. They're getting to the free-throw line. They're able to put their opponent in foul trouble. If that's what it takes to get the job done, I guess we all need to start doing it.

O.J. Mayo of the Memphis Grizzlies gave the above quote in talking to our good friend Kevin Arnovitz prior to tonight's Game 5. It's an interesting sentiment, one that no doubt many teams feel strongly about concerning their opponents. After all, doesn't every team always believe that their opponent is getting the benefit of the doubt where the officiating is concerned?

The problem with Mayo's position is that the available evidence in the series doesn't support it. At all.

Let's parse it.

"Both teams are trying to play physical" -- So he opens by saying that both teams are physical teams, the implication being that it should be about equal from the foul line. Over the course of the series, the referees should have called about the same number of fouls on each team, each team should have shot about the same number of free throws. That's the implication, right, O.J.? Or am I missing something?

"one team is a little better at acting than the other team.... They're getting to the free-throw line." -- In building his argument, he starts by saying that both teams are physical, implying it should be about even, then says that one team is "better at acting" and therefore "getting to the free-throw line."

So which team is he talking about?

Here are the cumulative fouls called and free throws attempted for the four games:









In the series, there have been fewer fouls called on the Grizzlies, and the Grizzlies have shot more free throws. In fact, the Grizzlies have shot more free throws per game than any other team in the playoffs. So the available data pretty thoroughly refutes the theory that the Clippers are selling non-existent fouls.

Which kind of shoots O.J.'s point all to hell. Then again, dude didn't major in Debate at SC.

Still, he clearly means to imply that the Clippers are getting more whistles than they deserve while the Grizzlies are getting fewer than they deserve. Unfortunately, there's really no way to prove that one way or the other.

We can however look at regular season numbers to see what is we might expect over a larger sample size. And guess what? During the regular season, the Clippers committed almost exactly the same number of fouls as they received, while the Grizzlies committed a few more than they received (fewer than one a game difference).









So the fact that the Grizzlies are getting more calls than their opponent in this series while the Clippers are getting fewer is not exactly consistent with what we might expect from regular season data. Comparing the series to regular season data, you might conclude that the Grizzlies are receiving more favorable treatment -- which might be consistent with the idea that referees are going to call it looser in the playoffs, which might benefit Team Grit and Grind.

But on the whole, this is all perfectly reasonable -- the Clippers and Grizzlies each foul about as much as they are fouled, which is what is happening in the playoff series as well. It may well be that the Clippers are better at selling calls, but there's no real evidence of it that I can see.