Lakers snag last semifinal spot after controversial timeout

Lakers snag last semifinal spot after controversial timeout
LeBron James and the Lakers are advancing after a controversial ending in in-season tournament play. (Gary A. Vasquez/Reuters)

With a 106-103 victory over the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday night, LeBron James scored 15 of his 31 points in the fourth quarter, helping the Los Angeles Lakers earn the final semifinal position in the first-ever NBA in-season tournament.

Austin Reaves scored 20 points and Anthony Davis finished with 27 points and 15 rebounds for the top-seeded Lakers, who take on the New Orleans Pelicans on Thursday in Las Vegas. In the East semifinal, the Milwaukee Bucks take on the Indiana Pacers. The NBA Cup will be awarded to the victor of the championship game, which is scheduled for this Saturday.

James added 11 assists, 8 rebounds, and 5 steals. “You’ve got some of the most alpha male competitors in the world, and if you give us an opportunity to play for something meaningful or an incentive, then you get what you’re getting,” James said. “The in-season tournament is what it is, and we have an opportunity to play on a big stage, be on national television, represent our families, our communities, where we come from.”

James executed a superb shooting display in the last moments. The 21-year-old veteran helped Los Angeles pull away by scoring 15 of the Lakers’ first 19 points in the closing frame and dishing out assists on his teammates’ other two baskets.

For the Suns, Kevin Durant missed a crucial 3-point shot at the buzzer despite scoring 31 points. Prior to dropping its third game of the season against Los Angeles, Phoenix had won eight of ten.

With 29 seconds remaining, Devin Booker made a layup to cut the Lakers’ advantage to 102-101, but with 15 seconds remaining, Reaves drained his third 3-pointer.

The Suns were incensed when the refs approved James’ request for a timeout even though Booker had just smacked the ball away from Reaves, causing Durant to make another layup moments later.

“It’s a loose ball, and you can’t call a timeout on a loose ball,” stated Frank Vogel, the coach of Phoenix. There’s a whistle blow. I’m not sure why. Every item in the league is subject to review. I’m not sure why that isn’t eligible for review.

Reaves stated that he believed Booker had likely fouled him just before the timeout was called.

“There was no call, and LeBron made a high-IQ play he’s made a million times,” Reaves stated.

Kevin Durant said he didn’t originally think the ball was loose when the timeout was allowed, expressing his lack of sympathy for his coach’s outrage over the call.

Kevin Durant remarked, “That’s not the ballgame.” Just one play, that. The game lasts 48 minutes. I dislike whining about phone calls. The referee won’t always call the play correctly. Sometimes it’s our responsibility to play through all of it and not stress about giving the referee the game.

After the break, Kevin Durant could have tied the game with a 30-foot shot, but Davis only made one of his two free throw attempts after being fouled.

For Phoenix, Booker and Grayson Allen each scored twenty-one points.

The Lakers, who went undefeated in the first tournament’s group round and even won in Phoenix on November 10, secured the top spot in the West. After that loss, the Suns bounced back to secure a wild-card berth in the elimination round.

Both Vogel and Lakers coach Darvin Ham stated that their players are getting into the spirit of the competition, especially with the drive to earn cash bonuses for their teams’ younger players and support staff, even though fans are still divided on the benefits of the in-season tournament.

They know exactly what that bag is, a smiling Ham remarked. “Money speaks, man.”

With a nagging back issue, Bradley Beal missed his 11th consecutive game for the Suns, who persevered despite committing 20 turnovers and having their two healthy superstars suffer with foul trouble. Early in the fourth quarter, Booker received his fifth foul; with 3:18 remaining in the game, Durant, who had already committed four fouls, picked up his fifth.

Phoenix made the most turnovers this season—10—of any club in the NBA in just the opening quarter alone. After trailing by 15 points at the half, the Suns rallied for 14 straight points after the break to grab the lead.

Vogel remarked, “We didn’t do enough early in the game.” If we improve in those areas—turnovers and on the glass—we won’t be discussing a close game like that.

Credits: ESPN

Read more at News Intercept:

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