Lakers, LeBron James cry foul in close loss to Heat
LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers have voiced dissatisfaction with the officiating in Monday's game against the Miami Heat. The team reached out to the NBA league office to seek clarity on the matter.
According to ESPN's Dave McMenamin's report on Tuesday, the Lakers highlighted various clips that showed what they perceived as clear fouls by Heat defenders during their narrow 108-107 loss.
"What they're telling is not consistent with what's actually happening on the floor," said James.
“When I went for the dunk attempt against Thomas Bruant, he clearly elbowed – like, arm straight across my face.”
The lack of a call on that play also led to a protest from Lakers head coach Darvin Ham.
"I see 'Bron shooting four free throws and the amount of times he attacked the rim, the amount of times he was slapped on the arm, which I could see plain as day, for that not to be called, man," Ham said.
“He's not flopping. I'm watching him go to the hole strong.”
The game saw the Lakers losing Anthony Davis to a hip injury and D'Angelo Russell to ejection after receiving two technical fouls, leaving the team with six available players for the remainder of the match. James played for 37 minutes and scored 30 points on 13-of-23 shooting.
"I asked him for the explanation – well, one of the refs said that he was straight up, hands straight in the air. Two of the refs said they were blocked and they didn't see it," said James.
James' decreasing free throw attempts
While it is early in the season, James appears to be on track to attempt the fewest free throws in his career. Currently, the 38-year-old is averaging approximately 5.7 free-throw attempts per game, a decline from his career average of 7.7 attempts per game.
His statistics show that he ranks 23rd in the NBA for the number of drives to the basket, averaging 12.0 drives per game. James ranks 16th in the league for free throws attempted on drives, with just 1.4 per game.
The four-time MVP has drawn a foul on only six percent of his drives, ranking eighth from the bottom among the 34 players with 70 or more drives this season, according to Second Spectrum data.
The Lakers' complaint to the league office comes after social media posts revealed that the team had shot the most free throws in the 2022-23 NBA season. In the previous season, the Lakers attempted 2,182 free throws, surpassing the Detroit Pistons by 76 attempts.
The 76 free throw advantage the Lakers held over the Pistons almost equaled the gap between Detroit's 2,106 free throw attempts and the Portland Trail Blazers' 2,021 attempts, which ranked ninth in the league.
As of the 2023-24 NBA season, the Lakers are averaging 24.6 free throw attempts per game, ranking seventh in the NBA. However, they only managed 14 free throws in total against the Heat, with James contributing four, the highest for the team. Meanwhile, Miami attempted 16 free throws, with star Jimmy Butler making seven.