UPDATE: It didn’t even take the league 48 hours to come to the obvious decision on this one. After Raptors’ coach Darko Rajakovic’s rant about free throws and officiating on Tuesday following a loss to the Lakers, the league announced a $25,000 fine.
The following has been released by the NBA. pic.twitter.com/c6SX4oKTsy— NBA Communications (@NBAPR) January 11, 2024
Original story follows.
Pressers at Lakers games have been quite the place to be over the last week. Last Friday, Darvin Ham had a wild response to reports of a disconnect with the locker room in which he talked about the Witness Protection Program prior to the team’s game against the Grizzlies.
And yet, somehow, that wasn’t even the most must-see presser to happen for their game this week, let alone this season.
Following the Raptors’ 132-131 loss to the Lakers on Tuesday, Toronto head coach Darko Rajakovic went postal with his frustration aimed at the free throw discrepancy. The Lakers shot 36 on the night to Toronto’s 13, including 23-2 difference in the fourth quarter.
Darko Rajakovic was outraged at the free throw disparity during Raptors-Lakers:— Dime (@DimeUPROXX) January 10, 2024
"This is shame. Shame for the referees, shame for the league to allow this. 23 free throws for them, and we get 2 free throws in the 4th quarter?" pic.twitter.com/9gjifHav8W
Truly, that’s an all-time rant. If that was my coach, I’d absolutely love it. Sticking up for your team is expected and he’s going to have the buy-in of the full team after that one, even if his pocket is going to be a bit lighter with a fine inevitable.
But, also, does he really have an argument?
Context matters in this. And there are multiple ways you can look at it to provide that instead of, oh, I don’t know, sharing screenshots without a hint of context attached.
For one, the discrepancy isn’t quite that severe in the fourth as the Raptors intentionally fouled down the stretch to extend the game, accounting for eight of those fourth-quarter free throws...which Anthony Davis made all of.
Two more of them came on a flagrant foul from the Raptors when Immanuel Quickley caught Cam Reddish with an elbow to the chin. Another two came late on an offensive rebound from Max Christie with 1:37 remaining. That’s 14 of those 23 free throws.
There’s also the context that the Raptors did not play a center for basically the whole game. With Jakob Poeltl out, the Raptors closed with Pascal Siakam at center on Anthony Davis and you’ll never believe how that turned out.
Siakam fouled AD with 34 seconds left and the Lakers up 122-121. The Lakers’ approach from the start was get the ball to AD with the Raptors not having rim protection and it paid off late.
Ultimately, Toronto played Jontay Porter, a 6’10” center, 10 minutes on the night. Chris Boucher and Thaddeus Young are listed at 6’9” and 6’8”, respectively, and spent time in the front court but neither played more than 29 minutes and neither closed the game.
The Raptors came up against a Lakers team that lives in the paint — they rank second in Cleaning The Glass in frequency of shots at the rim — and did not have their starting center, already a bad situation. They then decided to not play any other center for most of the night.
And guess what? They gave up a lot of free throws. It’s not exactly rocket science.
Or, you can just put it as simply as LeBron James did postgame when asked about the free throw discrepancy.
“I feel like they fouled and we didn’t.”
You can follow Jacob on Twitter at @JacobRude.