How Ref Scott Foster Could Impact Rockets-Warriors Game 2

How Ref Scott Foster Could Impact Rockets-Warriors Game 2 article feature image

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: NBA Official Scott Foster.

  • Scott Foster, an NBA referee that has given the Rockets and their star players trouble in recent years, will be part of the officiating crew for Game 2 of the Rockets-Warriors series tonight (10:30 p.m. ET, TNT).
  • The Rockets have failed to cover in each of the past five playoff games that Foster has officiated, including Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals against the Warriors last year.
  • Historically, Foster has actually been one of the most profitable referees for road teams.

This morning, it was announced that Scott Foster would be part of the officiating crew for Game 2 of the Rockets-Warriors series tonight. This may have gone unnoticed among casual fans but immediately caused some angst in the NBA Twittersphere for those who are aware of Foster’s recent history with the Rockets.

Back in February, Rockets star James Harden fouled out in a game that Foster worked, saying afterwards that Foster shouldn’t ref any more Rockets games going forward. He hasn’t … until now.

Per Bet Labs, the Rockets have lost and failed to cover in five consecutive playoff games with Foster officiating. This comes with an average cover margin of -20.9 points.

Foster reffed the crucial Game 7 of the Rockets-Warriors series in last season’s Western Conference Finals in which the Rockets (+5.5) lost by nine points. They also shot 7-44 from 3-point land that game, so … maybe just shoot 11-44 and win next time.

Though many believed Foster was assigned to this game after Harden’s and the Rockets’ complaints about the officiating in Game 1 of this series, that’s not the case, as officiating for the entire series is determined before it begins. Our own Rob Perez (@WorldWideWob) has some thoughts on that point… –Mark Gallant

Wob on the Scott Foster Drama

OK, on the surface this is really, really funny. After everything that went down with the Rockets and Scott Foster this year…

… you’d figure the NBA would keep him as far away from Rockets playoff series as possible.

I mean, he is the man responsible for delivering the infamous lowercase “T.”

But here’s the deal: The referee assignments are preset for the first four games of the series and Scott Foster is a crew chief. I am going to get these jokes off that David Stern is back from the dead like Emperor Palpatine at the end of the “The Rise of Skywalker” trailer, but the NBA is sending their best officials for this series regardless of their history.

Let’s not act like Foster hasn’t had issues with the Warriors, either. Whether it was justified or not, the fact remains he has ejected the unejectable Shaun Livingston in a playoff game before:

And Steph Curry in the 2016 Finals as well.

He has had problems with what seems like everyone and has quickly become the target for dodgeball practice.

In a Los Angeles Times poll that surveyed “nearly three dozen head coaches, players and assistants,” Foster was graded the worst referee in the league with 24 votes.

But the Warriors literally point and laugh at referees and emasculate them on national television.

So let’s not act like they are beloved by other playoff crew chiefs, either.

Ultimately, we are going to overanalyze EVERY call made in this game now because of this assignment, but in no way did the NBA purposely do this “TO MAKE SURE THE WARRIORS ADVANCE AND THE NBA GETS ITS RATINGS” like so many of you want to believe.

They did this because they need their most-experienced referees for the league’s most-important series, and they can’t use the same ones who the public is OK with to officiate every single game. It is in the collective bargaining agreement as such.

This is not some long conspiracy currently being played out; the NBA is not going to bench one of its veterans because fans and players don’t like him. But I will admit it sure as hell is hilarious. — Rob Perez

What Does This All Mean for Game 2?

As Matt Moore points out, the refs certainly did miss several calls on Harden’s 3-point attempts that could have changed the outcome of Game 1. Will Foster put his “personal” issues behind him and call fouls in similar situations tonight?

More thoughts from Matt on tonight:

“Here’s the thing. All the NBA had to do was have Foster ref one of the first five games of the second round. But they instead left Foster on the bench for a full nine days before assigning him to Game 2 of a fierce and contentious series between two teams that despise him. Oh yes, let’s not forget that the Warriors also feel that Foster is unfair towards them.

Harden and Paul’s comments earlier this season left the league in an untenable position. Assign him and it looks like you’re assigning an official with a clear bias and personal beef with two key players on one of the teams. Don’t assign him and it looks like you’re caving to the pressure applied by those players for their preferred officials. That’s a no-win situation for the league.

In terms of the actual game, the Rockets are creating a self-fulfilling prophecy for themselves. The officials are out to get them, so they complain, which breeds negativity, which makes them play worse, which makes them lose, which makes them upset, which makes them blame the officials. If they’re going to beat the Warriors they have to make shots. Period.

The reason I focused in on the landing zone fouls is that it directly impacts the Rockets’ ability to get good looks on shots they need to hit and it impacts player safety. But at some point you have to block it out. You think you got a bad whistle the last three games vs. Golden State, and honestly, having been live at two and done a breakdown of the third, I don’t disagree. They got a bad whistle. But officiating is an act of God, and if the Rockets let this series become dictated by the invisible hand of the officials they need to help them instead of something to simply overcome, they’re going to lose.

With that said, who knows what instructions the officials have been given after the conversation the past 48 hours. Give them a better whistle, don’t give them a better whistle, T them up, don’t T them up, who knows. This whole game has “don’t go near it” written all across it in giant red letters.” — Matt Moore

So for those racing to bet against the Rockets tonight given Foster’s assignment and the Rockets’ recent struggles against the spread (ATS) in the playoffs with Foster officiating, you may want to think twice.

On top of Moore’s warning, a five-game ATS losing streak isn’t something you want to bank on. When betting on trends, you generally want much larger sample sizes that have shown consistent long-term success.

With that said, the line has actually moved in the Rockets’ favor since this morning, as they’ve gone from +6 to +5.5. They’re actually quite a trendy underdog, getting more than two thirds of bets and more than 80% of the money so far.

Interestingly enough, Foster is the second-most profitable road referee in our database, with visiting teams posting a 456-400-19 (53.3%) ATS record in the regular and postseason combined. It would certainly be ironic if some of Foster’s calls helped the Rockets even up the series.

Though the Rockets haven’t covered in each of their past five playoff games with Foster at the whistle, they have gone 11-7 ATS during the regular season in his games during the past five seasons.

In terms of over/unders, Foster has historically leaned towards overs hitting, though not as much in recent years. Since 2008, the over has gone 455-409-11 (52.7%), but just 184-190-4 (49.2%) over the past five seasons. The total, which opened at 220 and had dropped down to 218 at one point, is up to 221. –Mark Gallant