The Los Angeles Lakers lost to the Boston Celtics on Saturday night in overtime, but the real story to emerge from that classic rivalry game involves the referees — and the childlike histrionics of a certain NBA superstar.
The Celtics were able to hold on for a 125-121 overtime victory against the Lakers at Boston’s TD Garden, but overtime didn’t come without controversy.
No, overtime came after a (to be completely fair) blatantly missed call, a total and utter meltdown by Lakers star LeBron James, and one of the most bizarre technical fouls you will ever see in a basketball game.
To unpack everything, we have to rewind to regulation of Lakers-Celtics, with just four seconds left in the game.
James, as he often does in these close games, attacked the hoop and went for a left-handed layup with the score tied at 105-105.
According to the official ESPN play-by-play, what happens next was merely attributed as “LeBron James misses driving layup,” but what actually happened was that he was very clearly fouled on the arm, which is what caused him to miss his shot.
Take a look at the non-call that triggered James:
LeBron is furious he didn't get this foul call at the end of the game 😳 pic.twitter.com/hANldRDGCo
— Action Network (@ActionNetworkHQ) January 29, 2023
As you can clearly see, James was obviously hacked on that attempt, and should’ve been awarded two free throws to try and ice the game.
But guess what? Missed calls happen! They happen often enough that the NBA actually puts out “Last Two Minute” reports breaking down any missed calls from referees in close games. Just look at the sheer number of reports (and, ostensibly, officiating errors) in January alone. Missed calls are as much a part of sports as spectators and coaches.
That didn’t stop James from melting down in a puddle of figurative tears.
James’s response to not getting those free throws was akin to a child being told that the one toy at Target that he wants had been sold to his arch-nemesis:
LeBron was not happy after this play to win the game. pic.twitter.com/FNMPBQTHox
— ESPN (@espn) January 29, 2023
James jumped up and down, grabbed his arm to show the referee where he’d been hit, slapped the court, held his head in disbelief, before finally just falling to his knees with his hands and face on the court.
It’s the kind of tantrum you wouldn’t expect from an NBA rookie, let alone a 20-year veteran.
Keep in mind, we still haven’t even gotten to overtime yet. Once regulation ended and the game resumed in overtime, Celtics superstar Jayson Tatum (the player who committed the missed foul in the first place) actually began the period with a technical free throw.
Many would assume that LeBron’s outsized tantrum was the impetus for the tech, but turns out, it was even weirder than that.
Noted NBA pest Patrick Beverly of the Lakers was actually called for a technical foul after he did something that I’ve never seen in my 30-ish years of watching the NBA:
— BigKnickEnergy (@BigKnickEnergy) January 29, 2023
The scrappy Beverly actually approached a referee with a photographer’s camera, showing the referee the clear contact that was made on James’s arm on the final play of regulation. The exasperated-looking referee didn’t hesitate to tee up Beverly after that.
Unsurprisingly, the Lakers were not too thrilled with the referees after the game was over (conveniently ignoring the fact that, missed call or not, there was still an entire overtime period for the Lakers to secure the win.)
“(Tatum) fouled him. He fouled him. Clearly. Clearly,” Lakers star Anthony Davis, said, according to ESPN. “It’s bulls***.
“It’s unacceptable. And I guarantee nothing is going to happen to the refs. We got cheated tonight, honestly. It’s a blatant foul. … It’s unacceptable, to be honest. The refs were bad. They were bad tonight.”
James’s ire, meanwhile, turned into confusion after the game, according to ESPN
“It’s challenging,” said James, who finished with 41 points. “I don’t get it. I’m attacking the paint, just as much as any of the guys in this league that’s shooting double-digit free throws a night, and I don’t get it. I don’t understand it.”
Honestly though, what’s there to understand? Missed calls happen.
Besides, James already identified the worst enemy of the Lakers, and it’s not the refs:
WE ARE OUR OWN WORSE ENEMY!!!
— LeBron James (@KingJames) January 28, 2023
Alas, the Lakers’s “own worse enemy” dropped to 23-27 on the year (good for 13th place in the Western Conference) after Saturday’s loss.
James and his band of misfits will travel to Brooklyn to face the Nets on Monday.
Story cited here.
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