The Lakers have gotten off to somewhat of a slow start this season. But on Tuesday, Los Angeles picked up a crucial victory in the quarterfinals of the NBA’s In-Season Tournament.
However, the closing moments of the Lakers 106-103 win over the Phoenix Suns were marred by controversy. The Lakers inbounded the ball with around 10 second left. Third-year shooting guard Austin Reaves caught the inbound pass and Suns defenders quickly surrounded him.
Reaves ended up losing the ball, although superstar LeBron James was at the other end of the court asking officials for a timeout at almost the exact same time.
Referees ultimately granted the Lakers a timeout, allowing Los Angeles to retain possession — much to the Suns dismay. Suns player Grayson Allen appeared to have possession of the ball when officials blew the whistle.
Phoenix head coach Frank Vogel, who helped lead the Lakers to a championship inside the NBA bubble in 2020, was seen questioning officials about their decision.
“It’s a loose ball, the ball’s out, and they call a timeout on a loose ball. You can’t call a timeout on a loose ball. You can’t do it. So if the whistle blows, I don’t know why, if everything in the league is reviewable, I don’t know why that can’t be reviewed,” Vogel told reporters.
“I know it’s not a foul or an out of bounds, which is, like, a challenge. But at any point in the game, if the whistle blows inadvertently, the refs can huddle up and say: ‘Inadvertent whistle, where are we at during the game?’ That did not happen, so [it’s] extremely disappointing.”
When play resumed, eight-time NBA All-Star Anthony Davis made a free throw. Two-time NBA Finals MVP Kevin Durant’s last-second three-point attempt fell just short, securing the Lakers’ three-point win.
The Lakers will move on to the semifinals of the In-Season Tournament. The Bucks, Pelicans, Pacers round out the field for the tournament’s upcoming round.
After the game, the game’s crew chief Josh Tiven, gave an explanation on why the Lakers were awarded a timeout.
“During live play, the official felt that LA still had possession of the ball when LeBron James requested the timeout,” Tiven said when asked why the Lakers were awarded a timeout when it appeared that they did not have possession of the ball.
“Through postgame video review in slow motion replay, we did see that Austin Reaves had his left hand on the ball while it’s pinned against his left leg, which does constitute control.”
Suns superstar Devin Booker did not directly address the call, but suggested a significant number of people saw what happened.
“The whole world seen it,” Booker said. “We’re not asking for favoritism, just a fair chance.”
James finished Tuesday’s game with a team-high 31 points. The four-time NBA champion also recorded 11 assists. Meanwhile, Davis had a double-double, ending the night with 27 points and 15 rebounds.
The Lakers enjoyed an off day on Wednesday, but return to action for their Western semifinal matchup against the Pelicans in Las Vegas.
The inaugural championship game is scheduled for Saturday.