3 Reasons Why Celtics Should Foul Early And Hard | Red's Army - The Voice of Boston Celtics Fans
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3 Reasons Why Celtics Should Foul Early And Hard

by DRJ

Some of us have wondered about the disparity in the foul count between
the Cavs and Celtics in their first two playoff games. Specifically Game
2, which the Celtics won even though they took only 18 FTs to
Cleveland’s 38.

Turns out the Celtics fouled the Cavs on purpose, right from tipoff,
usually when that was the only way to stop a sure score – and that
accounted for much of the disparity in total fouls. There are 3 very
good reasons for the Celtics to continue this strategy, and even ramp
it up

(1) The most obvious purpose is that it stops the Cavs from
putting 2 points on the board. Since the Cavs are hitting their FTs at a
rate somewhere south of 70%, it makes mathematical sense to foul (and
even more so when the player being fouled is one of the bad shooters, a
la Shaq).

(2) There is sound physical and psychological purpose in fouling
rather than allowing easy scores. Momentum is killed. The Cavs’ budding
excitement, if present, is nipped. Confidence is kept on edge. The
crowd, if playing in Cleveland, doesn't get a chance to roar. If we foul
them HARD… the Cavs will hesitate just a little the next time. And
finally, the Celtics get some rest during the ensuing time out. All
these benefits are added to #1 above.

(3) Fouling early can have a dramatically positive effect on the
. To understand how dramatic, first you must appreciate how
sensitive the Celtics are to certain referee misbehavior.

Of ALL the teams in the NBA, the Celtics are MOST HARMED by the ticky-tack
refs often start calling in the middle of games (for no
particular reason). We've all seen it… because it happens in most NBA
contests. Suddenly, and without warning, the refs will call some
ridiculous touch foul… then another one… and another… and soon –
especially if it's the Celtics they're hammering – the team is
completely off its game. Reason: the Celtics are the most
defense-centric team in the NBA. It's who they are. And defense is the
area most harmed by irrational referee calls, particularly those
nonsense ticky-tack foul calls we all hate. Players instinctively back
off, don't know what to do anymore, and confusion soon reigns.

In any given game, anything the Celtics can do to cut down on the refs
calling ticky-tack fouls – is good. Now… when the Cs commit several
obvious, intentional fouls… hard ones, preferably… early in the game
— what happens when the time comes when the refs would normally start
calling ticky-tacks? Well… they're all-too-human, as we well know…
so they look around, and they see that the Cs are ALREADY loaded with
fouls. They've been fouling conspicuously and hard at times, with no
attempt at argument. It makes NO SENSE for the refs to start ALSO
hitting them with ticky tack fouls. It would not only further unbalance
the two teams' foul counts, it would feel ridiculous, because the
pattern of foul-calling in the game has already been established – by
the Celtics

In a sense, by fouling early and hard (when necessary to stop scoring,
of course), the Celtics effectively take some control of the refs.
At least in terms of some of their foul calling. Now obviously, the
effect will vary from one referee group to another. But however strong
the effect is, it is a tremendously valuable and important
accomplishment. One that is exceedingly hard to do! You can imagine how
every team in the NBA would LOVE to be able to control the refs' foul
calls… to ANY extent, however small. By doing what they did in Game 2,
the Celtics are effectively achieving just that. It's a beautiful

I don't know if they've thought all this through. Don't know if the team
even REALIZES how valuable their early, intentional fouling really can
be. I think they do… I think they planned it this way. But it doesn't
matter – so long as they CONTINUE their fouling strategy while they can,
while it still works. Because, remember… the Celtics are the one team
in the NBA that is most sensitive to the BS referee calls we see
in almost every game. Now they've found a way to control the BS. More
power to them. God know, there's way too much BS in the world already.

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  • Lakerhater (FD)

    Great post, I agree with the fouling hard and don’t argue the call aspect. The Cavs have been horrible at the line and you are correct about the momentum stop that fouls create.

  • bostonstrangler


  • Jason

    Disagree with one of the premises. In Game 2 at least, I didn’t think the Cs were getting a raw deal from the refs on the defensive end. For the most part, the Cs do get the most out of their fouls. It was on the offensive end, being manhandled with no calls were the real egregious officiating came into play. And the reason this is so bad is because it doesn’t just take away points the Cs deserve, it gives the Cavs their best offensive opportunities. Instead of taking the ball out of bounds, the Cavs are being given TOs and rebounds which leads to easy run outs, points and more Cs fouls. Major double whammy.
    I’m aware not everyone agrees this is happening, but to me it’s blatantly obvious. James NEVER gets called for a foul. Shaq is allowed to stand in the circle, jump and bang his fat belly into Perk, KG, Pierce with no call. VJ’s allowed to swipe at anything with two hands flailing. Somehow though, to the refs, he never fouls anyone. Then they go and call Parker for barely touching Ray’s hip. Why? To manage the FT disparity after the fact? Fail and fail.
    Anyway, point is, the Cavs are good at finishing and not as good at FTs, so yeah, the Cs should foul. That I agree on. But when both teams are constantly in the paint and both teams have identical points in the paint, having a 2:1 FT disparity is, well, something is clearly FUBAR there.

  • Shawncvd

    You expanded perfectly on what I was posting post game Monday. Very in depth analysis of what I called controlling the tempo.
    The C’s should continue getting their players into foul trouble, getting the Cavs to the foul line, and controlling the pace and therefore winning the game .

  • DRJ

    I do not disagree. Cs were getting hammered on the offensive end, with too many no-calls. (I do think the refs also let the Cs’ fouls go a few times too (on the Cs’ offensive end), btw.) Regarding the point of the piece, however, what happens on the O end doesn’t negate the logic for the D end.
    Note that using the logic of the 3 points here, we should EXPECT some disparity in the fouls. I.e., it’s a GOOD thing if the Cs shoot fewer FTs than the Cavs… up to a point, of course!… because that’s an inevitable byproduct of the plan.

  • DRJ

    Yes, similar concepts. What I love is the idea that the Cs can actually gain some control over the refs. Because I’ve noticed how badly their ticky-tack calls can affect the Celtics’ game.

  • Scott

    I agree with the idea of what you’re saying 100%; however, there is little statistical evidence for some of the statements you make, such as “of all the teams in the NBA, the Celtics are the most harmed by ticky-tacky fouls” and “the Celtics are the one team in the NBA most sensitive to BS referee calls.” Those statements are based purely on your perception (the Celtics actually ranked 20th in the league in opponents free throws per game).

  • DRJ

    You’re right… it’s a perceptual observation, not statistical. I can’t think of a stat that would measure that particular point. Opponent FTs is related only remotely. I don’t think there is a stat that fits.
    But I’ve observed how the Cs will FALL APART only when the refs start blowing ridiculous ticky-tack fouls. It seems to affect them dramatically, at times. Game 1 was just the latest example.

  • Time for a Blockbuster Trade Baby!

    I thought the Williams dunk was an example of a situation that clearly warranted a hard foul. Similar to the way Shaq grounded Rondo. That dunk changed the energy of the game.

  • DRJ

    Yep. And it’s quite possible that that very play is what caused the Cs to come up with Game-2’s fouling plan. If so… it was worth it.

  • Shawncvd

    DrJ your insight gives me something to process as I wait impatiently for the continuation of our team’s conquest over the Cavs. Three days between games is ridiculous.


    Very interesting concept – I haven’t seen either game from NZ but when I was following the 2nd one the foul difference was astounding! I like this concept but you’re gonna be flirting with danger in terms of personnel getting into trouble.
    Another interesting fact
    I woulda thought everyone’s favourite spammer Mikey woulda written 47 posts laced with ridiculous facts to try and vent 30 years of anger!!!!

  • Green In Cleveland

    One of the most insightful b-ball analyses I’ve read. I just want to highlight one point and emphasize another.
    As mentioned, the Cavs are one of the worst foul-shooting teams in the league. In game two they missed almost as many foul shots as the Celtics attempted! Forcing them to score from the stripe is indeed a good strategy.
    Secondly, taking control of the refs in this way is especially important when playing Lebron. He literally almost never gets called for fouls, and DRAWS them constantly. Part of the essence of his game is how HE controls the refs, be it through his driving style of play, or his Diva status. Taking that away from Him is invaluable (capitalization ironic).
    So this whole fouling scheme works particularly well against the Cavs on two levels: 1. it takes the refs out of Lebron’s back pocket 2. it exploits one of the weakest parts of the Cavs’ game collectively.
    My only doubt about this strategy comes in considering game one where foul trouble seemed to be an issue more than an asset later in the game. Although, I guess it wouldn’t have been an issue if the Celts hadn’t suddenly given up. (We should be up 2-0!)

  • DRJ

    Great post… thanks Green. I particularly like your double whammy on why this strategy is especially effective versus the Cavs. Great stuff.