Lakers coach Luke Walton was fined $15,000 by the NBA for criticizing officials after Monday’s game against the San Antonio Spurs.
Walton expected the fine. After the Lakers’ 143-142 overtime loss, he opened his news conference by airing his frustration and later addressed his comments with Lakers players.
“I said, ‘Look, as players, it’s your guys’ job to play the game and as the coach I will fight fights that I feel like I need to for the guys,’” Walton said before Wednesday’s game at Phoenix.
Monday night’s game marked an apex in the Lakers’ irritation with officiating. The Spurs shot 38 free throws, 18 by LaMarcus Aldridge, while the Lakers shot 26.
“I was going to save my money, but I just can’t anymore,” Walton said after the game, before any questions had been asked. “… It’s 70-something points in the paint to 50-something, again they outshoot us from the free-throw line — 38 free throws.
“Watch the play where I got a technical foul on. Watch what happened to LeBron James’ arm. It’s the same thing that James Harden and Chris Paul shot 30 free throws on us [last Saturday]. Then LeBron pulls up on a screen, somebody trying to fight over. Same, same thing they shot free throws on. Same thing! We are scoring 70 points a night. In the paint. ... Watch how Josh Hart plays this game. He played 40 minutes tonight. All he does is attack the rim. Zero free throws tonight. Zero.”
James was asked about the officiating afterward. He began to answer but then smiled slightly and said, “Nothing.”
On Saturday against the Houston Rockets, the Lakers shot 18 free throws, three fewer than Harden shot on his own. The Rockets shot 30 in all.
The Lakers’ frustration with the officiating is part of what led to the fight during their home opener Saturday. After the Rockets’ James Ennis clotheslined Hart, he was assessed a flagrant foul 1. Many of the Lakers felt that Ennis should have been ejected.
Then when Brandon Ingram was called for his fourth foul he grew angry and shoved Harden in the back. That drew a technical foul, which led to Ingram confronting referee Jason Phillips. That confrontation was part of why Ingram’s four-game suspension was the longest of any player involved in the ensuing fight.
“If we are going to play a certain way,” Walton said Monday, “let’s not reward people for flopping 30 feet from the hole on plays that have nothing to do with that possession. They’re just flopping to see if they get a foul call. And then not reward players that are physically going to the basket and getting hit. It’s not right.”
Josh Hart started Wednesday in place of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
Hart, the 30th pick in last year’s draft, started 23 games last season after spending time with the Lakers’ developmental team, the South Bay Lakers. Some of those starts were made in place of other injured players, but Hart became a regular starter beginning in February until suffering a broken hand later that month.
In the Lakers’ first three games, Hart averaged 17 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.3 steals.
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