Do the Refs have it out for the Pelicans?

The Pelicans are being disrespected, and we're all getting tired of it.

Alright, so I'm sure at this point most of you have seen this postgame rant (part 2) from Alvin Gentry after the Rockets loss. And many of you might think he's just upset about that game. But something else is going on in New Orleans, and it seems Gentry has finally been set off. 

When Demarcus Cousins went down this year, the Pelicans were 13th in free throws per game at 22.6. Boogie was averaging 8.2 free throws per game, and Anthony Davis was averaging 7.9. You expect that with dominant players who score a ton of points in the paint. Especially when they are constant mismatches for any guy trying to guard them. 

They were also taking 35.6 of the Pelicans 85.4 shots per game at that point. So 41.6% of shots were taken by those two, while 71.2% of the team's free throws were taken by their two stars. That proportion seems a bit off, right? Especially when you consider that the Pelicans were 4th in the entire NBA when it comes to the percentage of points scored in the paint (45.1% of the Pelicans points were scored in the paint). Two of the teams above them were the Lakers (23.3 free throws per game) and the Clippers (25.7 free throws per game). So why were the Pelicans so far back in free throws at that point despite scoring a similarly high percentage of their buckets in the paint?

Well, at that point in the season, you could really just put it down to a couple of things. One, Demarcus Cousins is often the most disrespected player in the NBA when it comes to getting foul calls. You just have to watch a game to see that one. Boogie has been constantly grabbed, smacked, slapped, and hacked throughout his NBA career. But he's earned that. Refs despise the dude. He gets the Shaq treatment because he's so dominant in the paint, and he doesn't take too kindly to that. He's a very emotional guy, and he lets the refs hear it when they screw up. So that makes sense. 

The one that has never made sense though, is that Jrue Holiday gets the same treatment. From November 17 (Rondo's return) to January 26 (Boogie's injury), Jrue Holiday averaged 20.6/4.1/4.6 on 51/37/79. He was playing like a star. Shooting 67% at the rim, he was even finishing like a star. But the wild thing is, he was only averaging 3.3 free throws per game. What? That doesn't make sense. How can a guy who is scoring more than 10 ppg in the paint, while also being a serious threat to shoot and pass, only get 3 free throws per game? You'd think just by accident he'd be averaging at least 1 or 2 more. 

Nobody else on the Pelicans was averaging more than 1 free throw attempt per game. Everybody else on the team could not even get to the line more than once every other game. 

But here's where it gets really crazy. 

Prepare yourself for this. 

After Boogie went down, the Pelicans really kicked up their paint scoring. They kicked up their scoring period. 

They went from 111.1 points per game with Boogie to 113.4 points per game post-Boogie -- a 2.3 point per game increase. 

They also kicked their paint scoring up to 49.2% of their total points. That is an increase from 50.1 ppg to 55.7 ppg -- a 5.6 point increase. 

Yet somehow, someway, with absolutely no reasonable explanation, the Pelicans free throw attempts dipped down to 29TH PLACE, AT 18.6 FREE THROW ATTEMPTS PER GAME. 

You wanna know how this really, really, reeeeeally doesn't make sense? The only other teams in the bottom 5 during this stretch? Some big ole tanks: 

Sacramento - 15.7 attempts; 12th in % of points in the paint; 103.4 ppg (27th)

New York - 18.7 attempts; 5th in % of points in the paint; 102.4 ppg (29th)

Dallas - 19.2 attempts; 28th in % of points in the paint; 103.6 ppg (25th)

Memphis - 19.4 attempts; 19th in % of points in the paint; 97.2 ppg (30th). 

So, the only other teams in the same vicinity as us in terms of free throws are three of the five lowest scoring teams in the NBA, all without a high percentage of points in the paint (with the exception of the Knicks), and all intentionally trying to lose games. 

Yet somehow the Pelicans, a team with a 10-game winning streak in the middle of this stretch, are second to last in free throw attempts post-Boogie's injury. 

You know what's even crazier than just the overall bulk numbers? Despite the huge scoring increase, AD and Jrue are actually each taking less free throw attempts per game

AD has increased his overall scoring to 31.1 ppg, but is now averaging 0.1 less free throw attempt per game at 7.8. And if you take out the Phoenix game, where he fouled out every single big on the Suns' roster, gaining 26 free throw attempts in the process, his average actually dips all the way down to 6.8 attempts per game. 

Jrue, in the same vein, has continued the tradition of getting screwed over by the refs. Now his overall scoring and free throw attempts have remained relatively similar (20.9 ppg with 3.4 attempts per game), but man, oh man did the disrespect really show when Jrue kicked it up a notch. 

Now Jrue kinda struggled when Boogie first went down, but he bounced back big time and lead the Pelicans to their second 10-game winning streak in franchise history. He averaged 24.9/4.6/8.5 on 52/43/82. But oh boy, guess what? Despite taking 19 shots per game (an increase of 4.1 shots per game), Jrue only took 4.4 free throw attempts per game. He only got 5 or more free throw attempts in 3 of the 10 games. 

The games where he didn't get 5 or more free throws attempts include a 36 point (on 31 shots) performance, where Jrue only got 2 free throw attempts. Yeah, just imagine that. Imagine your second best player taking 31 shots (most of them being on drives to the rim) and only getting to the free throw line ONCE. 

And this garbage has only gotten worse since the streak ended. 

Jrue has finished 2 of those 5 games post-streak without taking a single free throw attempt. In one of those games, he took 21 shot attempts. 

In his last 8 games, Anthony Davis is averaging 4.7 free throw attempts per game. This is beyond ridiculous for a superstar averaging over 25 points per game. 

Since February 28, the Pelicans are only averaging 14.4 free throw attempts per game. Their shots at the rim and points in the paint have continued to increase throughout the season, yet they are somehow now dead last in free throw attempts. 

Something is going on here, and that is why Alvin Gentry blew up. That is why the Pelicans fanbase is up in arms. I beg you, go watch a single one of the Pelicans games from the last two weeks. Go watch and count how many fouls to Pelicans players went uncalled. James Harden blatantly throwing Anthony Davis to the ground -- no whistle. Jrue Holiday getting elbowed in the head multiple times -- again, no whistle. A handful of players chasing a ball rolling out of bounds only to be chop blocked by some defending player -- yet again, no whistle. 

There is absolutely no explanation for what is happening to New Orleans right now. There has never in NBA history been a stretch of games like this, where a team has been absolutely and utterly dominated by different referring crews. The league needs to do something about this trash. It's getting hard to watch. 

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