The National Basketball Referees Association said what everyone knew regarding the missed foul call on LeBron James at the end of the Los Angeles Lakers-Boston Celtics game on Saturday night: they made a mistake.
“Like everyone else, referees make mistakes,” the association wrote on Twitter on Sunday. “We made one at the end of last night’s game and that is gut-wrenching for us. This play will weigh heavily and cause sleepless nights as we strive to be the best referees we can be.”
James and the Lakers were absolutely furious about the missed foul, which almost certainly would have sealed the game for Los Angeles. With the score tied at 105 and less than five seconds remaining, the referees failed to call a slap to the left arm by Jayson Tatum on LeBron as the latter drove to the hoop.
It would have been a game-winning layup, but instead, the Lakers lost 125-121 in overtime to the NBA-leading Celtics. James was irate that the foul was not called, along with the rest of the basketball world: it was as obvious a call as you can get in the NBA.
“We don’t have room for error,” LeBron James said to reporters after the loss. “This is one of the best games we’ve played all year, and for this to fall on somebody else’s judgment or non-judgment is ridiculous. It’s ridiculous.”
“[My frustration] has been building. You guys have seen some of the games that we’ve lost this year with late-game missed calls. We had an opportunity to win the game…I watch these games every single day, and I don’t see it happening to nobody else. It’s just weird.”
Anthony Davis told reporters that the officiating in the game was “bulls**t,” while Lakers coach Darvin Ham preached consistency, not favoritism, lamenting that the “best player on Earth can’t get a call. It’s amazing.”
Referee Eric Lewis acknowledged after the game that the officiating crew had erred by not assessing a foul on Tatum, and the NBRA echoed that sentiment on Sunday.