Alone in the Corner

A failed Fix.

5th June 2010

I’ll be looking specifically at the following game;

February 25th 2007 HOU@ORL

Tick by tick line history for this game from Pinnacle;

This game has very sharp and pronounced line movement. The line opens with Houston a 2 point favorite, and closes with Orlando a 1.5 point favorite. 

Looking over archived injury alerts for this day there were no urgent messages or late messages that would have caused such a large line movement. Why then did this game move so much more than other Donaghy games?

I think one possible reason would be that at this point Donaghy and Battista had been working together for almost 3 months - and the books and people they were betting with started to take notice. It’s also very likely that another group not involved with Donaghy and Battista also liked this game and were betting it as well - either way the line moved a fair bit.

Another relevant detail in this game was HOU had been playing without a backup PG for some time now - this will become important as we go over some of the calls. 

In poker we refer to "tells"   

There is a famous scene in Rounders where Mike discovers KGBs tell;

Here is Donaghy’s tell;

Call 1

HOU 22 ORL 13

I wholeheartedly believe that if you had no prior knowledge to which side Donaghy and his crew bet, or weren’t privy to any type of inside information (be it testimony - or access to some of his wagering accounts) and you wanted to know which side Donaghy bet on - merely looking at his his illegal defense call would be quite the start.  

Call 2 


This is a marginal foul call. When the Pedowitz Report talks about Nunns investigation of Donaghy’s play calls, its pretty clear that this play wouldn’t be assessed as a “bad” call - its marginal and it could go either way. 

Call 3

HOU 30 ORL 19 ORL trailing by 11 points

On a per game basis I am fairly certain that Donaghy led all NBA officials in illegal defense calls in the 2007 season, I say fairly certain because I did not ref chart all of the 2007 season, in addition there were a small percentage of clips / games that I did not have video for. That being said I think it is very unlikely that any other officials who called more than 20 games had a higher per game ratio of illegal defense calls.

In the 2007 Season regular season Tim Donaghy officiated 69 games, in those 69 games he called 44 illegal defense violations. Another odd factor in this is that in those 69 games - he called more than one illegal defense violations on 13 occasions. 12 out of the 13 times the illegal defense calls favored the same team. 

Donaghy call by call details for this game;

Call 4 

HOU 30 ORL 21 

Here we have the following clip which is actually a fairly obvious travel. 

This call benefits ORL but isn’t even in the marginal category in my opinion as Head clearly changes his pivot foot. 

Call 5

HOU 34 ORL 27 ORL trailing by 7 points. 

This call here is definitely a marginally bad call, its also especially important as its called on Houston’s Rafer Alston and remember we mentioned that Houston was only playing the one point guard (Rafer). 

Rafer was vital to the Rockets that night, he actually ends the game with 20 points on 11 shots and had 5 assists to the 1 turnover. 

Call 6 

HOU 34 ORL 28

This is one of my favorite calls in the game from a subtlety standpoint and its multi faceted;

1. The call is made against McGrady.

2. This is McGrady’s second foul of the game (he ends the game with 4 fouls) and picks up his 3rd foul a few plays later an sits for the last 3:47 seconds of the 2q.

McGrady ended the game with 34 points on 20 shots (although he did turn the ball over 7 times). 

I’d actually classify the above foul as a bad call in that if you are going to call a foul on someone during that play, you’d call it against Mutumbo and not McGrady.

Call 7 

HOU 45 ORL 36

This might be a foul and it might not be a foul - Gary Zielinski has better position on the play and he chooses not to make the call - Donaghy however sees it as a foul and ORL is in the penalty so D. Howard shoots 2 free throws.

Call 8

This is a traveling call on Rafer Alston and is a clear travel, no need to show the clip on this one as its clearly a studder step travel.

Call 9

HOU 63 ORL 53 (6 mins remaining in the 3q)

This is another marginal bordering on chintzy call - its definitely not a call you see a whole lot in the NBA - Donaghy calls 3 travels and  in this game, none of which benefit HOU.

Call 10

HOU 72 ORL 70 with 1 min remaining in the 3q

Is one of the two fouls Donaghy calls against ORL, its a play at the basket where McGrady is fouled rather by Dwight Howard. This is an auto call. 

Call 11

This is another marginal call that you could also argue was a phantom call. My favorite part of this clip is where Battier does a double take. 

Call 12

HOU 81 ORL 73 8:50 remaining in the 4q

This is clip that I teased a few weeks ago - Its obviously a horribly bad call. Its clear as day that if anyone commits a foul in this play its Luther Head and not Rafer Alston. Refs are normally loathe to call the 5th and 6th fouls on starters (A study was presented on this earlier this year) 

Donaghy not only makes the incorrect call but he exarcebates his mistake by calling a technical foul on Alston as well. I have been told by someone who was at the game that Derrick Stafford tries to get Donaghy to change the call to Head but Donaghy was adamant that he made the correct call and ignored Stafford. The significance of having the call assessed to Alston is that he’ll have to either sit for an indeterminate amount of time or play with 5 fouls. 

The Rockets elect to sit Rafer until the 2:31 mark of the 4th quarter. When Rafer leaves the game the score is 81-74 for HOU - he returns with the score 90-85. We mentioned before that Houston only had the one PG and had to go with Luther Head playing extended mins at the point - here is what happens when you try and play for too long without a PG 

Call 13 

Immediately after the bad call on Rafer and the resulting technical, Donaghy issues a makeup call by calling a touchy foul on a Bonzi Wells layup attempt. This one of only 2 of 16 calls Donaghy makes that favor Houston.

Call 14

Hou 84 ORL 76 7:09 remaining in the 4q

This in my opinion is another really bad call by Donaghy, the announcer states that he isn’t sure that the basket is continuation, I’ll take it a step further - where is the actual foul by Head? Even if you can make the argument that Donaghy did see enough to call a foul on Head, its pretty clear that this is not continuation.

Call 15

HOU 89 ORL 83 4:31 remaining

Another marginal bordering on bad call by Donaghy, the real interesting thing about this play is that Donaghy is once again off the play when making this call. Derrick Stafford is directly under the basket and doesn’t deem the play worthy of a foul. Note that in this clip Donaghy isn’t even in the frame, it is clear however that neither Stafford nor Zeilinski make the call. In addition, when the whistle blows several players react in the direction of Donaghy. Thus it is pretty clear that Donaghy was the official that made this marginal call.

Call 16

HOU 90 ORL 85

Is a rather clear foul where Bonzi Wells intentionally tries to stop Ariza from making a layup. This is an automatic call for any official including Donaghy.

For those that would like to advocate the case that perhaps Donaghy just calls the game closer than most and thus all these marginal / bad calls are the result of his officiating style I’d like to offer the following clip;

When you watch the replay Donaghy has a clear angle on this play and he elects to not make the call - when you compare this to some of the chintzy fouls he called against the HOU defenders you definitely notice the contrast.

So there you have it, I titled this post anatomy of a failed fix because despite Donaghy’s best efforts - he actually lost this bet as Houston went on to win the game 97-93 - mainly on the strength of 10 more 3 point makes. 

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