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For years, James Harden terrorized the NBA with his flailing, contorting, hooking, Oscar-worthy moves around the rim and beyond the three-point line. As a true magician, referees continuously awarded these non-basketball, un-watchable movements with whistles.
Playing within the rules at the time, Harden singlehandedly ruined the game flow of nearly every matchup he was featured in and the product as a whole took a hit due to the copycats who kicked their legs out to initiate contact on threes, did their best soccer impressions by rolling around at the slightest bit of contact and all that jazz.
A new NBA rule that went into effect this season prohibits referees from calling fouls on “abnormal” movements and it has had quite the impact.
“The competition committee came very quickly to agreement that these non-basketball moves were not what the game should be about,” NBA head of officiating Monty McCutchen said after the rule was instituted, per the New York Post. “It should be about playing the game.
“We can see that a lot of the innovation that’s taken place is driven by analytics. Players have learned that it’s efficient to get to the free throw line. And we want to get back to normal play … we want to inject some flow back into our game. We want to inject discipline back into our game, and we want to play.”
As a direct result, Harden is averaging 17.3 points, 7.0 rebounds and 8.3 assists in 33.3 minutes per game and has attempted just 3.0 free throws per game this season, well below the 7.3 he averaged with the Nets last season and the 8.7 he averages for his career.
It’s clear that the rule change is on his mind, but Harden isn’t going to budge.
“I ask every official: If they see a foul, just call a foul. Sometimes, I feel like, coming into a game, it’s already predetermined or I have a stigma of getting foul calls. But I just ask for the officials to just call what they see,” Harden recently said in postgame comments, via YES Network.
When asked if he’s going to change his style of play to accommodate the new mandate, he responded, “No, I’m playing. I can’t stop playing basketball. A foul is a foul, no matter what league it is. But it’s bigger than that. I’ve got to play better obviously. That’s it.”
“I think he’s got to stick with it,” Nets head coach Steve Nash said, per the New York Daily News. “But they’re just so alert and aware, and he’s the poster child of these new decisions. I get it, there’s a line, but some of them are still fouls. So, he’s just got to stick with it, he’s got to keep going to the basket, and he’s got to do what he does because a large portion of them are still fouls, and if he doesn’t get fouls, he can still make plays.
“He can still finish them, and pass and do all the things that he does. So he’s just got to continue as he finds his rhythm again after very little basketball for half a year. Keep attacking, keep attacking, and they’re gonna respect his skill level and his ability to get guys on his shoulder and get to the basket.”
The under has gone 4-0 in Nets games this season.
One Brooklyn game finished under the total by 1.5 points and another finished under the total by 3.0 points. If this rule wasn’t instituted and Harden was able to make his case for an Oscar per usual, it’s clear that the under wouldn’t be undefeated in their games.
Heading into Tuesday, the New York Knicks, Charlotte Hornets, Orlando Magic and Los Angeles Lakers all ranked in the top five in free throws attempted per game and were four of the six teams that the over was over .500 in.
That’s not a coincidence.
Per Statmuse, the NBA entered the week averaging 19.5 free throw attempts per game, the fewest in league history. With teams attempting lower percentage shots, it makes sense to continue to look at unders on a daily basis until sportsbooks adjust.
The over/under in Wednesday’s Nets-Heat game is 218.0 points, considerably lower than Brooklyn’s previous four totals (229, 233, 224.5 and 234). Find out if our model recommends betting over or under the total for just $4.99 and unlock the entire slate!