Lakers complain about officiating 'inconsistency' after season-low eight free throw attempts in loss to Suns

The Los Angeles Lakers’ lackluster return to action from the All-Star break continued on Sunday afternoon with a 123-113 loss to the Phoenix Suns. After shooting a season-low eight free throws in the defeat, the Lakers complained about “inconsistency” from the officials. 

“I’m not one to use referees as an excuse,” Lakers head coach Darvin Ham said. “But it’s becoming increasingly tough because of the inconsistency. I’m seeing our guys get the same contact on them as we’re supposedly committing. And the whistle is not being blown.

“That’s something we focus on, trying to win the free throw line every game. And so that’s tough. I’m telling my guys to drive downhill; we’re trying to love and live in the paint. And you’re not getting calls. I see guys with their hands in our guys’ ribs or swinging, swiping at their heads, trying to block the shot but not getting the ball, but getting a piece of the body. And it’s not being called, as simple as that. So, we have to figure out ways to not let that be a problem, but it’s tough. Again, it’s frustrating when there’s so much inconsistency.”

The Lakers are sixth in the league in free throw attempts per game at 24.3 and score 16.0% of their points from the line, which ranks 11th in the league. They would be much higher in the latter category if not for the fact that they shoot just 77.2% on foul shots, a mark that checks in at 19th. 

While the league has trended ever more toward 3-point shooting, the Lakers get to the line so frequently because they still employ an inside-out approach. They are second in the league in points in the paint per game (55.4), fourth in post-ups per game (7.1) and last in the league in 3-point attempts per game (30.8). Of course, the Lakers’ brand and employing LeBron James doesn’t hurt either. 

They went with their usual approach on Sunday, but did not get the calls this time. 

“A lot of people, a lot of coaches, a lot of teams are like, ‘That’s all the Lakers do is get to the free throw line,'” James said. “It’s like this narrative out there that that’s all we do is get to the free throw line. I mean, we have attackers. That’s what we do. We have attackers. Yeah, we shoot the ball from the perimeter, but we’re not shooting 40 to 50 3s a game. We’re not that team. We don’t have the luxury of being that team. So, working it into the paint, that’s what we’re really good at.

“To have eight free throw attempts is definitely not us. I know, definitely, I got hit a couple times when I got to the paint tonight that wasn’t called. But it is what it is.”

The eight free throws were not only a season-low, but tied for the fewest the team has shot in a game since James joined the team during the 2018-19 season. They also shot eight free throws in 2019 win over the Miami Heat and a 2021 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. 

Just for the sake of comparison, the Lakers have shot 30 or more free throws 96 times since James joined the team, which is fifth-most among all teams in that time span. 

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