The Los Angeles Lakers fell in a thriller in Game 5 of the NBA Finals on Friday, and soon made very clear what they thought of the officiating in the final minutes.
Lakers head coach Frank Vogel griped about calls surrounding Miami Heat hero Jimmy Butler, claiming they led to four free throws the Heat didn’t deserve:
“I felt two bad calls, at the end, put Butler at the line. That’s unfortunate in a game of this magnitude. Anthony Davis has a perfect verticality, should be a play-on. In the time before that, Markieff Morris has his hand on the ball. That should be a play-on. They were given four free throws and make an uphill battle for us. So, very disappointed in that aspect of the game.”
LeBron James essentially concurred, saying certain “questionable calls” helped the Heat:
“Couple questionable calls that swayed their way, put Jimmy [Butler] to the free-throw line.”
A day later, the NBA released its Last 2 Minutes report for Game 5 and concluded that two calls were indeed missed that should have been in the Lakers’ favor. However, neither were the calls Vogel and James were talking about, and the calls in question also didn’t end up really costing the Lakers.
Which Lakers calls did NBA Finals officials miss?
Instead of the two fouls called against the Lakers on drives by Butler, which the NBA explicitly ruled correct calls, the NBA pointed to two incorrect non-calls on Laker possessions that still resulted in two points each for the Lakers.
The first occurred with 1:01 left in the game, when James was driving through the paint with Butler guarding him. The league said that Butler’s right arm made contact with James’ head and should have been ruled a shooting foul.
However, James went on to rebound his own miss after attempting a difficult lay-up to make a second-chance field goal which put the Lakers up 106-105.
The other missed call came with 28 seconds left in the game. The NBA noted that Heat forward Andre Iguodala should have been called for defensive three seconds given how long he spent in the paint without actively guarding an opponent. That possession ended with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope air-balling a 3-pointer, Anthony Davis rebounding the miss and scoring for another two points.
That score put the Lakers up 108-107 with 21.8 seconds remaining, a lead that would disappear the next play when Butler drew the foul that had the Lakers steamed after the game. Let’s talk about that play as well.
Frank Vogel was wrong about Anthony Davis’ verticality
With the Heat’s season on the line, the ball was only going to one man, Butler.
Looking for an opening at halfcourt, Butler received a screen from Jae Crowder that allowed him to lose both James and Markieff Morris and drive to the paint, where Davis was waiting across the paint to help.
Davis quickly maneuvered into Butler’s path, in the restricted area, and stonewalled the star. Butler missed the layup, but received two decisive free throws.
It was still an advisable foul, as Butler was very likely to get two points if Davis had not aggressively shifted over. However, it’s hard to look at that play and think Davis had “perfect verticality” as Vogel argued. When he jumps, his feet are on the front right part of the restricted area. When he lands, he’s in the back left.
As the NBA put it, Davis “jumps from point A to point B and initiates body contact with Butler during his driving shot attempt.”
The NBA also made clear in its report that it wasn’t Morris’ hand hitting Butler’s arm or the ball that led to the foul, as Vogel said, but Morris’ contact with Butler’s left arm during his gather.
Whoever lost the most to errant officiating — the Heat had a questionable call or two against them as well — it matters little now. The Lakers might want to hope the NBA doesn’t look too closely at a certain run-in between Davis and Crowder earlier in the game, though, as they prepare for Game 6.
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