It's nothing you haven't heard before, but it's something you might not have seen before, at least in terms of the precise numbers. Yes, you have seen the Los Angeles Lakers have a plus-17 advantage in free throw attempts in one half of an NBA playoff game. That's nothing new… but a plus-17 advantage when the opponent has ZERO foul shots? That might be a first. The Phoenix Suns might want to know what's going on.
It's true: In the first half of Game 1 of their best-of-seven playoff series on Sunday in Phoenix, the Suns got shut out at the foul line — not just in points, but attempts. The Lakers got 17 free throws and made 11 of them. It has legitimately kept the Lakers in contention. They trail by only eight, 53-45, because of their plus-11 scoring margin and plus-17 free throw margin.
Free throws in the first half
17 — Lakers
0 — Suns pic.twitter.com/4xjmF8g8Za
— StatMuse (@statmuse) May 23, 2021
The surprising element to this story is that it's not LeBron James or Anthony Davis who is making a parade to the foul line. Dennis Schroder led the Lakers with six attempts, and Montrezl Harrell has five. LeBron didn't have any attempts, and Anthony Davis has just two.
None of this is new, but it will continue to fuel speculation from fans that Adam Silver is on the phone line, and other meme-worthy, James Bond-type images of devious behind-the-scenes maneuvers at NBA world headquarters in Secaucus, New Jersey.
This rampant (unfounded) speculation runs wild, and to be clear, this kind of conspiratorial maneuvering does not in fact happen. No one should assume it does. However, the NBA could make it a point to clamp down on officials in points of emphasis and overall evaluations. The league does have a perception problem on this issue, and that problem has been earned. It's not a false crisis. The Lakers have been part of this story for decades, going back to Game 6 of the 2002 Western Conference finals against the Sacramento Kings, a game referee Tim Donaghy talked about for its outrageous free throw disparity in favor of L.A.
Donaghy was in fact part of a betting scandal in 2007. He conspired to fix games and was drummed out of the league in disgrace. His view of 2002 Lakers-Kings only added fuel to the fire on this larger issue.
The first half of Lakers-Suns ensures this controversy won't die down in the 2020s.