Not content to wait until June to get beaten up, down and sideways by Western Conference opponents in the NBA Finals, LeBron James took his talents to Tinseltown and joined the Los Angeles Lakers amid expectations that he would lead them to the playoffs.
Unfortunately, the net result so far has been two suspensions — to Rajon Rondo and Brandon Ingram after a fight with Chris Paul of the Houston Rockets last week — a bunch of chemistry problems and zero wins in three tries.
Monday night was particularly troubling, when the Lakers faced off against the San Antonio Spurs. LeBron’s heroics forced overtime — but then Patty Mills ripped the soul out of LA’s season less than a week in by canning a clutch basket to give San Antonio a 142-141 win.
Rudy Gay hits CLUTCH three
LeBron James misses both free-throws
Patty Mills GAME, Spurs Win 143-142, Lakers now 0-3 pic.twitter.com/Gac2CHIeCu
— Chris Montano (@gswchris) October 23, 2018
For coach Luke Walton, however, getting outcoached by Gregg Popovich wasn’t the reason for his team’s loss.
Walton needed a scapegoat, and he found one in the form of the referees.
“Let me start here. … I wasn’t going to say anything, because I was going to save my money, but I just can’t anymore,” he said. “It’s 70-something (74) points in the paint (by the Lakers) to 50-something. (And yet) again they outshoot us from the free throw line — 38 free throws (to 26 by the Lakers). 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 (drew fouls on and) shot 30 free throws on us the night before. … 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. So to me, it doesn’t matter. I know they’re young, I get that. But if we’re going to play a certain way, 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 just 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.”
With all due respect to Walton, it doesn’t matter how many points you score in the paint when you have the fifth-worst defensive rating in basketball, you’re 28th on offense in 3-point percentage, and your opponents are shooting the third-highest 3-point percentage of their own in the NBA.
How does that saying go, “Three is more than two”?
So sure, the Lakers are scoring in the paint at will — their 59.8 percent shooting on 2-point shots is the second-highest in the league — but that just means they’re losing a point on every made shot and trying to make it up in volume.
Furthermore, the Lakers aren’t exactly getting nothing from the refs themselves. They’ve taken 73 free throw attempts, 19th on a per-game basis in the league.
And sure, they’ve given up 97 free throw attempts, seventh-most in basketball, but watch the games. When the opponents attack the basket, the Lakers are in awful position and instead of putting a body between the driving player and the rim, they reach in and commit the foul.
In other words, the Lakers are 0-3 because they stink, not because they’re getting robbed by the refs.
LeBron was more subtle than his coach in complaining about the calls. “It’s hard,” James said. “With the new rule changes, you literally can’t touch anybody.”
Lakers’ LeBron James on the officiating after OT loss to Spurs: “It’s hard. With the new rule changes, you literally can’t touch anybody… We’re trying to figure it out.” pic.twitter.com/RJRxU7wr9N
— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) October 23, 2018
He’d rather talk about officiating than the two free throws he missed with 12.8 seconds left that would have rendered Mills’ clutch shot at worst a game-tying make rather than the game-winner.
Being the choker in a game your team lost is, after all, the ultimate glass house.
Anyone who’s even thinking about giving Walton the benefit of the doubt should seriously consider watching the games. There’s a reason the refs are awarding so many free throws to the other team, and it simply comes down to “because the Lakers are committing fouls while their opponents play defense at the rim.”
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.