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#pounditFriday, February 23, 2024

Ref defends Lakers being awarded controversial timeout against Suns

The Lakers and Suns scramble for a loose ball

The Los Angeles Lakers appeared to catch a huge break in their win over the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday night, but the crew chief from the game does not view it that way.

The Lakers led the Suns 105-103 with 11.2 seconds remaining in the NBA In-Season Tournament semifinals game between the two teams. Kevin Durant had just converted a layup to cut the lead to 2 points, so the Lakers had to inbound the ball under their own basket.

LeBron James inbounded to Austin Reaves and the Suns immediately pressured the Lakers guard. Reaves lost control of the ball, but a whistle blew because L.A. was awarded a timeout. You can see the play below:

Replays appeared to show that Reaves had lost possession of the ball before LeBron asked for the timeout and the referee blew his whistle. You can see a screenshot here that shows James signaling for the timeout as the ball was clearly bouncing away from Reaves.

Despite the evidence, crew chief Josh Tiven told pool reporter Jovan Buha of The Athletic after the game that slow-motion replays showed Reaves still had possession by definition.

“During live play the official felt that LA still had possession of the ball when LeBron James requested the timeout,” Tiven said. “Through postgame video review in slow motion replay, we did see that Austin Reaves had his left hand on the ball while it’s pinned against his left leg, which does constitute control.”

Almost anyone who watches the replay will dispute that. The ball was several feet away from Reaves when the whistle blew.

The Lakers maintained possession and the Suns had to foul them on the ensuing play. Anthony Davis split his free throws after that to put the Lakers up 106-103, and Kevin Durant missed what would have been a game-tying 3-pointer.

Suns coach Frank Vogel said he received a poor explanation for why the timeout was awarded. He also wondered why the officials could not review the play and determine that there was an inadvertent whistle. Based on what Tiven said, the call would not have been changed even if it were reviewed.

Devin Booker summed up how most people felt about the play with a post on Instagram.

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