Before the Lakers lost Game 5 of the NBA Finals against the Miami Heat, head coach Frank Vogel was asked if he’d ever ended up buying any coffee from Jimmy Butler, who is selling $20 cups of his own personal “Big Face Coffee” brand in the NBA Bubble.
Vogel had previously admitted that Butler had tried to sell him a cup, but Vogel never followed up, saying he didn’t want to buy coffee from a potential opponent. He also wanted to save money.
“20 bucks is a lot for a cup of coffee,” Vogel said.
Vogel was evidently feeling far less frugal after the Lakers’ lost Game 5, though, because his rant about the officiating at the end of his team’s 111-108 defeat is almost assuredly going to cost him a lot more than $20.
“It’s a tough loss. There’s no doubt about it. We were very close. I felt two bad calls at the end put Butler to the line,” Vogel said. “That’s unfortunate in a game of this magnitude.”
Vogel’s gripes were about two of the last plays of the game. With 46 seconds left, Anthony Davis fouled Butler at the basket. Then, after Davis answered with a bucket on the other end, Butler was again sent to the line when a foul was called on Markieff Morris at the rim with 16 seconds remaining. Butler made all four free throws, giving the Heat a 1-point lead on the Lakers’ final possession.
The Lakers still had a chance to win the game — a missed three by Danny Green and horrible turnover by Markieff Morris on the offensive rebound ensured they wouldn’t — but in a game they lost by three points with a title on the line, Vogel wasn’t happy.
“They were given four free throws and made it an uphill battle for us. Very disappointed in that aspect of the game,” Vogel said.
LeBron James didn’t go quite as far — and likely will save himself some cash as a result — but he also wasn’t happy.
“I thought AD made a heck of a play at the rim. I felt he was chest to chest with Jimmy, making him change the trajectory of his shot and the call didn’t go our way,” James said. “At that point in time, I think it was a tough call, but they made the call.
“We still had an opportunity to win. But we feel like with AD, and with him at the rim and him contesting things like that, it could have (gone) our way. But it didn’t.”
Did the Lakers have a point? Well, sort of. Somewhat ironically, the play they seemed the most upset about — the foul on Davis — actually seems to be the most obvious violation. Yes, Davis had his hands up on Butler’s drive, but he is clearly not moving straight up when the contact is made.
Now, is that a tough call in such a close game? For sure. But by the letter of the law, it is a foul, so it’s hard to believe Vogel is going to find a receptive audience with the league office on it. Even if he called the play “perfect verticality,” he should know from his days with Roy Hibbert and the Indiana Pacers that it wasn’t.
On the second play, Vogel said that Morris “had his hands on the ball” and that a bang-bang play at the rim like that “should be a play on.” In this case, he sort of has a point, as this very well might not be a foul. If it is, it’s not much of one.
If you screengrab here, it does appear as though Morris contacts the ball before Butler’s arm, but it’s close, and in real time it’s a somewhat understandable mistake from the referees.
In the end, though, the officiating isn’t what matters here, at least not for this game. The Lakers still had a chance to win, and they blew it. That’s on them, not on the referees.
What might make a difference here is the method by which Vogel let the league know he wasn’t happy. After every game, the Lakers — and every other team — submit calls they disagree with from the prior contest to the league office, who then reviews the tape and sees if they need to point anything out to their officials. Vogel has referenced these “proper channels” once already in the playoffs, and once earlier in the regular season when he’s been displeased with the officiating.
“I’ll leave it at that and keep my money,” Vogel said the first time he brought them up.
But Vogel is evidently done saving, taking his concerns public in a Phil Jackson-esque attempt to influence the referees before a pivotal Game 6 of the NBA Finals. It’s going to be significantly more expensive than a cup of Big Face Coffee, but it also might offer Vogel quite a bit more bang for his buck if the Lakers get a couple of extra calls next game.
Either way, Vogel is confident his team can bounce back, and won’t let a game he felt like was (in part) taken from them stop them from closing out this series on Sunday.
“Our group’s fine. We’re going to bounce back strong. We’ll have a better performance in Game 6,” Vogel said. “We’ve got to play better for the 48 minutes leading up to that last minute.”
If they do, maybe the Lakers can take the end result of the game out of the referees’ hands altogether.
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