The Los Angeles Lakers are furious after an obvious foul on LeBron James' potential game-winner was missed, with the Boston Celtics going on to secure a 125-121 victory in overtime.
Playing in Boston, James was spectacular with a game-high 41 points on 15-of-30 shooting, adding nine rebounds and eight assists, but the game was tied at 105-105 after Jaylen Brown's and-one with four seconds remaining.
The four-time MVP and four-time NBA Finals MVP would be the player entrusted with the last shot for the Lakers, and after driving left and getting all the way to the rim, James was smacked on his shooting arm by Jayson Tatum with under one second on the clock.
But the foul went un-whistled, with James, All-NBA team-mate Anthony Davis and the entire Lakers bench erupting in fury as the game was sent to overtime.
LeBron is furious he didn't get this foul call at the end of the game pic.twitter.com/hANldRDGCo— Action Network (@ActionNetworkHQ) January 29, 2023
Los Angeles guard Patrick Beverley was issued a technical foul after bringing over a camera to the referee in an effort to show crew chief Eric Lewis the clearly botched call, and the Celtics went on to score 20 in the extra period, led by Brown with 11 of his 37 total points.
Speaking after the loss, Davis made it clear he felt cheated by the referees.
"It was bull**** at the end of the day," he said. "It’s unacceptable, and I guarantee nothing will happen to the ref. We got cheated tonight, honestly.
"[Beverley] got all ball on Brown, [but they] called a foul. LeBron, they smack across his arm. Unacceptable, to be honest. The refs were bad – they were bad tonight."
James echoed those sentiments, saying this is not the first time this season he has felt disrespected by officials.
"You saw my reaction… it’s challenging," he said. "I don’t get it.
"I'm attacking the paint just as much as any other guy in this league that’s shooting double-digit free throws a night. I don’t get it. I don’t understand it."
He added: "You guys seen some of the games we lost this year, with late-game missed calls. I don’t understand what we're doing.
"I watch basketball every single day. I watch these games every single game, and I don’t see it happen to nobody else. It's just weird."
Jaylen Brown is everywhere— Boston Celtics (@celtics) January 29, 2023
JB secured the board and bucket plus one in tonight's @JetBlue Play of the Game pic.twitter.com/jhIpM6QSEw
Head coach Darvin Ham joined the chorus of discontent.
"The best player on Earth can’t get a call – it’s amazing," he said. "You have to call a cat a cat, you can’t look at something and try to pretend it’s not what it is.
"He’s a guy that tries hard to play the right way. Doesn’t flop, plays downhill, plays a strong, physical brand of basketball.
"Just because he doesn’t flop or doesn’t flail and he’s not screaming when he’s shooting the ball like I see a ton of other players doing, he gets penalised for it.
"As much as you try not to put it on officiating, it’s becoming increasingly difficult. I don't want to see another Last 2 Minute report – they can save that. It doesn't do no one any good."
In an Instagram story, where he included a still photo of the foul, Lakers guard Dennis Schroder also voiced his frustration.
He wrote: "The refs gotta start getting fined for their mistakes! They also giving technical fouls to people who are reacting to their mistakes.
"The replay center should also use replay to get these calls right, especially on an important play like the OBVIOUS foul on LeBron at the end of the game.
"This needs to stop… to lose 3-5 games this season off of referees' mistakes is really hard."
In an uncommon occurrence, crew chief Lewis confirmed the botched call immediately after the game finished.
"There was contact," he said. "At the time, during the game, we did not see a foul. The crew missed the play."
The loss has the Lakers fall to 23-27, sitting 13th out of 15 teams in the Western Conference.