LeBron James, Lakers get robbed in Boston, but it’s set up (yet again) by Darvin Ham’s coach at the end of the game

LeBron James, Lakers get robbed in Boston, but it’s set up (yet again) by Darvin Ham’s coach at the end of the game

LeBron James and the Lakers haven’t gotten an accurate whistle in a handful of games this season, and it burned them again Saturday night in a brutal 125-121 overtime loss to the Celtics in Boston.

With the score tied at 105, the Lakers had a sideline out of bounds with 4.1 seconds left in regulation. LeBron curled around the top for the inbound pass and continued straight down, getting all the way to the rim for a game-winning layup attempt. He didn’t even draw iron, and for an obvious reason. He was clearly felled by Jayson Tatum, who broke clear as day right over LeBron’s left forearm.

Here’s a closer look.

Never mind the rigged comment in the tweet. These games are not rigged. They just missed the call, plain and simple. Per multiple reports, the league didn’t even wait for its usual final two-minute report the next day to admit they missed the call.

You can understand that LeBron’s frustration is reaching a boiling point. This isn’t the first time this has happened to him or the Lakers this season. Heck, it’s not even the first time it’s happened this month.

In fact, James was burned by a no-call on another potential game-winning layup attempt in a double-overtime loss to Dallas on Jan. 12; The Last Two Minute Report confirmed that Christian Wood did indeed hack LeBron with the draw and the final seconds ticking down at the end of the first overtime.

So, yes, this is another tough beat for LeBron and the Lakers, who don’t have the margin for error to absorb more late-game steals. That said, in both examples referenced, the Lakers should never have been in a position to be fouled by the officials in the first place.

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After the loss to the Mavericks, Darvin admitted to Ham that he was “kicking [himself] in the butt” for not double-teaming Luka Doncic with the Lakers up three at the end of regulation, instead letting him go one-on-one and eventually hit the game-tying 3-pointer.

But it wasn’t Ham’s first or biggest mistake on that possession. He should have had the Lakers foul Doncic before the shot to prevent him or anyone else from attempting a 3.

I’ve said it a hundred times and I’ll say it again. Allowing yourself to fail on purpose, an act that in spirit is meant to be a detriment to your chances of success, when you’re up three late in a game, is stupid. But until the league figures out a way to enforce its own rules with integrity, there is no statistical justification for allowing an opponent to attempt a game-tying 3-pointer over sending them to the free throw line for two shots.

Yet there are still coaches, like Ham, who are either too stubborn to accept basic math or too afraid to slip up under fire — these are professionals, they should be able to figure it out — to do the smart thing. You’d think that after watching Doncic torch the Lakers with a 3 game a few weeks earlier, Ham wouldn’t make the same mistake again.

But he did. On the possession before James was robbed of potential game-winning free throws, the Lakers had a three-point lead with less than 10 seconds on the clock. LA had several chances to foul out and keep the Celtics from trying to tie the game, starting with Troy Brown Jr. and Patrick Beverley had Malcolm Brogdon double-teamed at the top of the key.

Instead, they let Brown swing the ball to Tatum, who swung it to Al Horford, who had an open 3 in the corner. It’s the shooting defense that tries to guard against all game, and the Lakers willingly let the Celtics shoot with the game on the line when they had more opportunities to foul instead.

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Horford missed, but that’s not the point. It’s terrible coaching saved by luck…at least at first. See, the other problem with letting teams try to match 3s is that they’re far more likely to generate an offensive rebound than a free throw, and admittedly that’s exactly what happened.

Jaylen Brown swooped in to grab Horford’s miss and finish a layup … plus the foul on Beverley. He made the free throw to tie the game and you know what happened from there.

To be clear, Beverley made a stupid play by fouling Brown. You are up three. Let the guy put it up. Trying to contest that shot is a catastrophic mistake. But things happen in chaotic situations. The clock is going down. Close game. Loose return. Instincts and emotions take over. Again, that scenario should never have played out. Ham must instruct the Lakers to fail.

These aren’t the only late mistakes Ham has made this season. You can very much question his super small closing lineups. On Saturday, he didn’t play Russell Westbrook the entire fourth quarter (smart), only to throw him into the fire midway through overtime (not smart).

Westbrook made some good plays in overtime and he made some bad plays. Again, not the point. If he’s not credible enough to be on the floor in the fourth quarter, casually throwing him into overtime is asking, especially as part of a tiny three-guard lineup that collectively can’t shoot.

A couple of weeks ago, Ham Westbrook absolutely botched the last possession of the game with the Lakers trailing the Sixers by one instead of calling timeout and making sure LeBron at least gets to touch the ball in such a crucial moment.

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Ham said after that loss that he never considered calling a timeout because he enjoyed the matchup between Westbrook and Joel Embiid.

“I take that scenario every day of the week and twice on Sundays,” Ham said.

As I wrote then, and as I’ll write again, that comment is nothing more than Ham trying to get Westbrooks back and maybe protect his own by rationalizing a bad decision. That possession was a wreck and you could see it happening almost in slow motion.

Although Ham initially liked the matchup, there was no way it was going to happen when Westbrook fumbled the ball. Had Ham called timeout at that moment, with about seven seconds still on the clock, he could have designed a play to get LeBron the ball and ensure the Lakers get a good look at the basket.

These are terrible decisions and they cost the Lakers crucial wins that they cannot afford to lose. It happened again on Saturday, when the refs stole a game from the Lakers that Ham should have ended a possession earlier.

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