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Denver Nuggets Film Friday: What do you want from us ref?

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NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Denver Nuggets Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

If you’re not familiar with Film Fridays, each Friday, I’ll be looking at some recent Denver Nuggets’ games, lineups or something else from a film aspect to try and bring you a piece of content that you’re not getting somewhere else. Feel free to give any feedback positive or negative in the comments or find me on Twitter.

In 465 career games between the regular season and the playoffs, Nikola Jokic has shot 10 or more free throws 25 times. His career average for free throws per-36 minutes is 4.5, and he’s averaging a career-best 4.8 per-36 this season. From the 2014 NBA draft, there was another star center in Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers. Per-36 minutes, Embiid averages 10.3 attempts, and he’s attempted 10 or more free throws in 78 of his 265 career games. Despite playing 5925 fewer minutes, Embiid has attempted 615 more free throws than Jokic has. What does all of this mean? What do Jokic and the rest of the Denver Nuggets have to do to get any respect from the referees?

Head coach Michael Malone was tossed from the team’s Wednesday night win over the San Antonio Spurs when he got animated with the officials for their lack of foul calls when Denver was on offense. Prior to Malone’s ejection, the Spurs had shot nine free throws compared to just one for Denver while the Spurs had an advantage in the fouls department with just four total compared to Denver’s six. Jokic and the rest of the Nuggets regularly are battered and bloodied during and after games, and, despite that, they still can’t get a trip to the free-throw line to save their lives.

Denver currently ranks 28th in the NBA in free throw attempts per game and 30th in total makes from the charity stripe. Despite ranking eighth in the NBA fouls per game, their opponents average the 12th-most free throw attempts per game against them. At some point, the rubber has to meet the road because Denver isn’t going to make it through the playoffs in one piece when teams are contesting shots more and more. What do they have to do to draw a foul call or two?

Are we serious?

This was the straw that broke the camel’s back for Malone against the Spurs. Jokic goes at Jakob Poetl where the refs proceed to miss three foul calls. The first was on the initial contact, but the more egregious comes when Jokic raises his arms to get a shot up. Poetl’s arm comes down on Jokic’s right arm, but it goes uncalled and Jokic turns the ball over. Denver’s in the middle of a 12-4 run, and that momentum gets wiped out with that simple missed call. This isn’t a ticky-tack call that could go either way, but it doesn’t make sense how other centers are getting these calls.

I have just one question for this one. HOW?! What does Jokic have to do for this to be called? Paul George goes for the block but misses. In the process, he falls through Jokic and knocks him to the floor. The ball is less than a few inches from his hand when George makes contact with him, and the ref doesn’t even acknowledge the contact because Jokic made the shot. Meanwhile, there have been multiple occasions where Denver is called for the foul only after the ref sees that the opponent has missed.

What more do you need?

So the Nuggets should just stop falling down. They’re more likely to get hurt when they hit the floor than they are to actually get a foul called in their favor. Jamal Murray has the advantage on his defenders, and he’s driving to the basket. He elevates to get the floater off over Steven Adams. He gets the shot off, and Adams proceeds to jump into his body and slap his arms before Murray lands in a heap on the ground. I’m not sure what else he could have done to get this call.

Jokic needs to start wearing a helmet with how frequently he’s getting hit in the face. I can understand missing a tap on the arm here or a missed bump there, but Jokic catches a hand to the face pretty clearly here. “But Gage, that was just a follow through on the block.” Remind me that the next time I smack you in the face to say that it was just a follow through from a block attempt. Jokic is praised for his ability to create space and get shots off. He does that here, and still gets fouled in the process yet no whistle comes.

That whistle works both ways

Free throw discrepancies are going to happen. One team will be getting the whistle more on a nightly basis, but, at a certain point, something is going on. Against the New Orleans Pelicans, Denver was called for 28 fouls compared to just 12 for New Orleans which resulted in a 30-10 free throw difference. I’m not sure what the ref sees on this one. Brandon Ingram has his head down, and he’s driving his shoulder into Paul Millsap before extending his elbow to get separation for the jumper. I don’t think a foul should have been called on either side, but, in a tie game with a minute to go, this is what we’re calling?

Same game. Same offensive player. 30 seconds apart, but, on this play, the refs do miss a call on Ingram. When he gathers the ball, he hooks Will Barton, who is on his way to being out of position for the play, and drags him back in en route to a layup-and-one opportunity. The spin move used by Ingram is outstanding which would leave him a free shot at the rim. Instead, he keeps Barton on him to give himself the bailout foul in the event he misses. The calls have to go both ways.

For those of you that are still here, remember to leave your feedback in the comments or over on my Twitter, and have a fantastic film-filled Friday.