Leading by nine points with just over three minutes left in the game, rookie guard Austin Reaves was called for a shooting foul on LaMelo Ball, a normal enough basketball play. But after that is where things got screwy. Carmelo Anthony walked through the paint prior to Ball’s free throw, leading to the Lakers’ second delay of game penalty of the night, an automatic team technical foul.
Ball hit the technical free throw, but Russell Westbrook continued to argue with the referee who T’d up Anthony, earning his own technical foul in the process. While Ball was hitting another free throw, Anthony, incensed by this point, continued barking at the referee, earning another technical foul. Ball then made that free throw, and both of his original shooting foul ones. The whole process allowed Ball to cut his team’s original nine-point deficit to four points in zero seconds of gametime in what was truly one of the most bizarre NBA sequences this blogger has ever personally witnessed.
“Shit... There was a lot going on at that particular moment,” Anthony summarized aptly after the game.
After the game, Anthony Davis told his teammates he understood their frustrations with the calls, but added that the Lakers have “got to do a better job of controlling our emotions.”
Westbrook, however, was less contrite, and explained why to reporters after the team managed to win the game in overtime.
“The ref was a little upset. I don’t know why, but he screamed at me, and I told him ‘don’t scream at me. I’m not your kid, I’ve got kids of my own. Don’t talk to me like I’m your child.’ So he gave me a tech. I’m OK with that though,” Westbrook said. “I understand there are heated moments, but we’re all grown men. And if I talk to you with respect, the refs should do the same.”
When pressed by a reporter for his thoughts on that sequence allowing the Hornets to come back, Westbrook replied with a question of his own.
“Who won?” Westbrook said.
It’s a fair point, even if it can pretty easily be argued the Lakers would have won more easily had they not gotten into it with the referees. But that said, if Westbrook felt disrespected, I’m not going to sit here and tell him he wasn’t allowed to feel that way. The result wasn’t pretty, but eventually the Lakers got the win, and as Westbrook points out, the result is all that ultimately matters. Even if the road there could have been easier.