LOS ANGELES — The Lakers are making a late push up the Western Conference standings, but their efforts were hampered on Saturday night by an incorrect last-second no-call on a LeBron James layup in which James was clearly fouled.
If called, James would have been sent to the free throw line with a chance to win a key game against the best team in the Eastern Conference.
The NBA released a statement admitting the mistake and the official NBA referee Twitter account apologized, but being victimized by bad calls has been a pattern for the Lakers this season, said hosts Andy and Brian Kamenetzky on a bonus edition of the Locked On Lakers podcast.
“This is not me and you saying it, this is not the millions and billions of Lakers fans worldwide saying it, this is the league saying it in the quickest admission of an eff-up I’ve ever seen,” said Andy Kamenetzky. “Basically the (NBA) Last Two Minute Report should be a shrug emoji.”
Of course, the Lakers had a series of mistakes that led to that moment, including multiple missed shots by Anthony Davis and poor defense on Jaylen Brown, but taking away a trip to the free throw line for James with a chance to win the game has a direct impact on the outcome of the game.
“What the Lakers were absolutely robbed of was the opportunity to win the game,” said Andy Kamenetzky. “Because you can’t say definitively that LeBron would have made both of those free throws. Maybe makes one, maybe he misses them both, maybe they go to overtime, but we will never know because the referees missed a glaringly obvious call.”
The replay showed obvious contact as Jayson Tatum smacked down on James’ left hand as he went up for a layup. But even if the referees missed that, the hosts agreed, the angle the ball left James’ hand at should have been an obvious sign of illegal contact by Tatum.
“When was the last time LeBron James, who is going to pass Kareem in a week for the scoring record, missed a layup the way that ball came out of his hand?” Brian Kamenetzky asked. “I know you don’t want to blow the whistle and decide the game at the free-throw line, but it’s embarrassing. It’s embarrassing for the league.”
The mistake by the referees was a pattern that has burned the 23-27 Lakers too often this season, Andy Kamenetzky added on the weekend episode of Locked On Lakers.
“The Lakers have been hurt a lot down the stretch of close games, admitted in these Last Two Minute Reports, that now just feel like double middle-fingers when you see them,” he said. “This is not Laker fans complaining or thinking that Lakers exceptionalism should apply to them at all times, this is the league saying, ‘we missed these calls.’”
Patrick Beverly and a few other Lakers could face future discipline for their reactions and postgame comments; Anthony Davis deemed the no-call "bulls---" and "unacceptable," while Dennis Schroder suggested the officials themselves should be fined for failing to call the foul.
"You saw my reaction...it's challenging. I don't get it," James said when asked about the no-call.