San Antonio Spurs Fall To Denver Nuggets Thanks, In Part, To 39 Free Throws

Orly Rios Jr.Analyst IIMarch 24, 2011

Denver outshot San Antonio 39-26 at the free throw line in Thursday's 115-112 win.
Denver outshot San Antonio 39-26 at the free throw line in Thursday's 115-112 win.Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Half of the basketball fans you meet are 100 percent pure NBA fans.

They like everything about the game: The rebounds, the momentum swings, the dunks, the players and even the foul calls.

The other half like the game of basketball itself, but hate what the NBA has become—a travesty.

If you didn't watch Wednesday night's game between the San Antonio Spurs and Denver Nuggets, you missed a physical playoff-type basketball game between one team trying to cope with losing their big man, and the other on a roll since getting rid of their superstar.

The Tim Duncan-less Spurs rolled up 69 first-half points as San Antonio led by four at halftime.

The second half however, was a Denver Nuggets free throw-palooza.

By game's end, Denver had shot 39 free throws. Yep, 39.

Time and again in the third and fourth quarters, the Spurs were hit with foul after foul, and terrible call after terrible call.

One call was made against Spurs guard Gary Neal for "kicking" Nuggest forward Raymond Felton when replay clearly showed that Neal never even picked up his leg or even attempted to kick Felton after falling down on his back.

Between the start of the thirrd quarter and the 5:30 mark of the fourth quarter—18 minutes and 30 total seconds—the Nuggets shot 16 free throws. In that time, San Antonio went to the line eight times.

If you take the first quarter and the 18:30 from the third quarter until the 5:30 mark of the fourth, Denver shot a grand total of 30 free throws—or about one free throw a minute.

Yet, in the second quarter and last 5:30 of the game—17 minutes and 30 seconds total—Denver only shot nine free throws, and two of them were from an intentional foul.

The box score at the end of the game under free throw attempts reads: Denver 39, San Antonio 26.

Fouls committed: San Antonio 25, Denver 21.

Seems pretty even right?

From the start of the thirrd quarter to the 5:30 mark of the fourth, San Antonio committed 12 total fouls, Denver eight. During that span, Denver shot 16 free throws and outscored the Spurs 38-32.

San Antonio in the first 24 minutes of the game committed a grand total of 12 fouls, and in the next 18 and a half minutes, went off with 12 more.

In the last 5:30, all of a sudden, the whistles stopped, and the team with the hot hand won out.

In the end, San Antonio lost a regular season game that in the long run, won't mean much, but in the immediate future, it's troubling that a team can get so many favorable calls and in the end that the refs, not the players, can dictate the outcome of the game.

How does a team in a 18 minute span commit 12 fouls, then in the next five-and-a-half minutes only commit one foul that was intentional?

Some may argue that at the end of the day, San Antonio's fouls were right: 12 in the first half, 13 in the second—what's the big deal?

Yet, what the box score won't tell you, like I will, is that the foul calls weren't even and happened at crucial times in the game.

This has become the calling card of the NBA: Refs dictate the outcomes of the game, not the players.

Refs making game changing calls that swing momentum and frustrate teams, and in the last couple of minutes, swallow their whistles.