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LeBron James and Lakers in disbelief over no-call in loss at Boston: ‘We got cheated’

LeBron James reacts after a missed foul call at the end of regulation in the Lakers' 125-121 overtime loss.
LeBron James reacts after a missed foul call at the end of regulation in the Lakers’ 125-121 overtime loss to the Boston Celtics on Saturday night. James finished with a game-high 41 points.
(Michael Dwyer / Associated Press)
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There are excuses. There are facts.

Darvin Ham isn’t one for excuses, and pointing to the referees, to Ham, is an excuse.

But after LeBron James didn’t get sent to the free-throw line at the end of regulation Saturday night in Boston and the Lakers couldn’t get right in overtime, Ham leaned on his facts.

After losing to Boston 125-121, the Lakers’ coach and their star players all felt the same. They did enough to win. They should’ve won. And things outside of their control were the main reason they didn’t.

“As much as you try not to put it on the officiating, it’s becoming increasingly difficult,” Ham said. “There’s a bunch of stuff we could have did better in this game, but for the most part, we competed our behinds off, played the right way, played together, stayed aggressive, playing down, playing in the paint. And it’s unfortunate that the game ends off a play like that.”

“We got cheated,” forward Anthony Davis said.

Sources not authorized to speak publicly said the Lakers were quickly informed by NBA officiating staff after the game that a foul should’ve been called on the play. Later, crew chief Eric Lewis said the officials should’ve whistled a foul.

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“There was contact,” he told a pool reporter. “At the time, during the game, we did not see a foul. The crew missed the play.”

Asked about the play, Boston’s Jayson Tatum, who hit James on the arm, smiled.

“The last two minutes and overtime was a blur. I don’t really know what happened,” he said. “Think I have to watch the game, watch the film. Everything happened so fast. Gotta move on and we got the win. That’s all I got to say about that.”

It’s the second time a potential James game-winner went without a call this month; the Lakers learned James should’ve shot free throws after a drive in the first overtime of a two-overtime loss to Dallas. The Lakers also should’ve been granted a potential game-tying free throw when Kendrick Nunn made a three against Sacramento on Jan. 18 with less than 10 seconds left.

LeBron James reacts after a no-foul call in the final seconds of regulation against the Boston Celtics on Saturday.
(Maddie Meyer / Getty Images)

“It’s been building,” James said after the game. “Because you guys seen some of the games we’ve lost this year with late-game missed calls. We had an opportunity to literally win the game. I had the second one in the last few weeks for myself — against Dallas, had an opportunity to win on a foul call. K-Nunn the other day had an opportunity to tie the game if the four-point play is called. I don’t understand.

“I don’t understand what we’re doing. And I watch basketball every single day. I watch games every single day. And I don’t see it happening to nobody else. It’s just weird.”

James finished with 41 points, nine rebounds and eight assists. He attempted six free throws. Tatum and Jaylen Brown took a total of 23 for Boston.

“The best player on earth can’t get a call,” Ham said. “It’s amazing.”

Boston's Jayson Tatum makes contact with LeBron James as the Lakers star puts up a shot.
Boston’s Jayson Tatum, right, makes contact with LeBron James as the Lakers star puts up a shot in the final seconds of regulation Saturday.
(Maddie Meyer / Getty Images)
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Brown tied the score before the James no-call on an and-one putback that the Lakers also criticized, saying they felt guard Patrick Beverley got all ball and that the whistle came late.

Beverley, in particular, had a huge impact, helping harass Tatum before hitting a go-ahead three and a go-ahead dunk in the final minute of regulation.

But the Lakers didn’t do enough to keep a no-call from mattering.

In his second game back, Davis struggled, scoring 16 points without a steal or a block while finishing a team-low minus-16.

LeBron James sits on the bench with a towel over his head after the Lakers' overtime loss to the Boston Celtics on Saturday.
(Michael Dwyer / Associated Press)

Beverley, who was set to be the hero, missed a free throw in the final minute of the fourth that kept the Lakers from icing the game — much like misses from the line cost them wins against Philadelphia and Boston earlier in the season.

Then after regulation, Beverley took a camera and showed an image of James getting fouled to to an official, instantly getting called for a technical while giving the Celtics a free point at the line to start overtime.

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“There’s a bunch we can do better,” Ham said.

And there still are the questions about Russell Westbrook. Against the Celtics, Westbrook struggled — the crowd egging him on to shoot. He started 0 for 6 before scoring his first points from the free-throw line and spent the entire fourth quarter on the bench.

But in overtime, Westbrook sparked the Lakers with a tip-in while drawing a foul. He made the free throw, plus two more after drawing a flagrant foul.

Then, he missed a corner three and, on the next possession, a reverse layup. He declined to speak to reporters after the game.

The Lakers (23-27) got closer to full health, guard Lonnie Walker IV coming back to score 13 points off the bench in his most-efficient shooting game of the year.

James scored 40 or more for the fifth time since turning 38 on Dec. 30.

But they were left to air their gripes after the game.

Lakers forward LeBron James was named an NBA All-Star for a record-tying 19th time and will serve as a captain for the sixth consecutive year.

Jan. 26, 2023

One thing Ham didn’t want was another retroactive apology.

“I don’t want to see another two-minute report,” he said. “They can save that. It does no one any good and we just have to focus on how we can get better in different stretches of the game, how we make sure we’re doing what we can control.”

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