February 23, 2024

Free throws aren’t like snacks handed out at a party for children. Nothing suggests they must be even. One NBA team commits more fouls than its opponent and said opponent gets to shoot more free throws.

But when the Lakers are awarded 36 free throws while the Toronto Raptors shoot a measly 13 in a one-point Lakers victory, somebody is going to complain like a kid at the party who missed out on a goody bag.

That somebody Tuesday night was Raptors coach Darko Rajakovic, who noted that the Lakers took 23 free throws in the fourth quarter to only two by his team while pounding a table to hammer home his message.

“It’s outrageous. What happened tonight, this is completely B.S.,” the first-year coach from Serbia said. “This is shame. Shame for the referees. Shame for the league to allow this. Twenty-three free throws for them, and we get two free throws in the fourth quarter? Like, how to play the game?

“They had to win tonight? If that’s the case, just let us know, so we don’t show up for the game. Just give them a win. But that was not fair tonight.”

The Lakers do shoot more free throws than most other teams. They’ve had 925 attempts this season, an average of 25.3 a game, while their opponents have taken 739, an average of 19.4 a game. Last season the Lakers averaged 26.6 free throws a game to their opponents’ 20.8 a game, by far the biggest differential in the NBA.

Rugged center Anthony Davis is among the NBA’s best at drawing fouls, and he made 13 of 14 free throws Tuesday, including eight of eight in the last minute Tuesday as the Lakers held on for a 132-131 win that elevated them to .500. Davis took advantage of the absence of Raptors center Jakob Poeltl, who was sidelined with a sprained ankle.

The lopsided free-throw totals were somewhat misleading because the Raptors committed eight intentional fouls down the stretch and a flagrant foul when Immanuel Quickley elbowed Cam Reddish in the face with 3:52 to play.

Observers on social media noted that the lead official was Ben Taylor, who 10 months ago was scorched by Raptors guard Fred VanVleet after a loss to the Clippers, saying Taylor was “f—ing terrible.” However, VanVleet is on longer with the Raptors.

Others point to an astonishing tweet by the referees union a year ago as proof the Lakers get preferential treatment. The Lakers lost to the Boston Celtics in overtime and LeBron James complained about an uncalled foul, suggesting that officials are harder on the Lakers. “I watch games every single day and I don’t see it happening to nobody else,” James said. “It’s just weird.”

The next day the referees union tweeted: “Like everyone else, referees make mistakes. 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 was less verbose Tuesday after the win over the Raptors. Asked about the yawning free throw differential, he said, “I felt like they fouled and we didn’t.”


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