It has only been 72 hours since the most recent NBA Last Two Minute Report showed calls in the final possessions of a tightly contested game disadvantaged the Lakers, and the final possession between Joel Embiid and Russell Westbrook at the end of Los Angeles’ 113-112 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers made it appear that the team might end up getting a retroactive apology from the league two games in a row.
After the NBA admitted that LeBron James was fouled on a potential game-winner against the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday, instant replay sure appeared to show a similarly missed call against Westbrook in the final possession of Sunday’s game:
However, the league disagreed, calling the contact “marginal” in the L2M:
The NBA’s Last Two Minute Report for Lakers-Sixers determined that Joel Embiid did not foul Russell Westbrook on LAL’s final possession Sunday. pic.twitter.com/koCnWRo5yK— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) January 16, 2023
Westbrook, however, certainly felt like he was harmed by the physical final possession, blaming it for his wild attempt in the closing seconds (via Dave McMenamin of ESPN):
“I was trying to get my hand up,” Westbrook explained afterward. “I couldn’t get my hand up to shoot because [Embiid] was grabbing it. But it’s all good.”
According to Kyle Goon of the O.C. Register, Westbrook even was showing reporters a screengrab of the alleged contact similar to the one above:
Russell Westbrook said in the locker room that the final play was a shot attempt that was obstructed by Joel Embiid grabbing his right arm. Westbrook showed a handful of reporters a screenshot of the play where Embiid appears to be grabbing him.— Kyle Goon (@kylegoon) January 16, 2023
Embiid, surely an equally impartial arbiter in this situation to Westbrook, disagreed with his opponent’s assessment:
Joel Embiid on the last play guarding Russell Westbrook: “I don’t think I fouled him … He was unlucky because he lost the ball. I would say he was unlucky”— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) January 16, 2023
What is the truth? At this point, it honestly doesn’t matter. No matter what the L2M report shows, the Lakers have lost two games in a row that they could have won against teams with winning records. Ultimately whether the NBA says that was right or wrong makes little difference to the team, who will have to rebound from this quickly before facing the Houston Rockets tonight.
And, like we wrote in this space a few days ago, if the Lakers can execute better over the first 47 minutes, they won’t have to count on the officials to do so in the final one.