The Lakers lost to the Timberwolves 108-106 on LeBron’s 39th birthday
LeBron James came mere inches away from tying the game between the Los Angeles Lakers and Minnesota Timberwolves in the waning seconds on Saturday night. As he sank what appeared to be a game-tying 3-pointer, the official on the floor instead ruled that it was a 2-point shot. The referees immediately went to replay to try to find a definitive answer, though none was found. As a result, the call on the floor stood. Instead of a 107-107 tie, the Lakers trailed 107-106. They ultimately lost 108-106 after James failed to get a shot up on the final possession. After the game, he was still upset by the replay decision.
“It’s obviously a 3,” James told reporters after the game. “My foot is behind the line. You can see the space between the front of my foot and the 3-point line. You can clearly see a white, the wood on the floor is the space in between the front of my foot and the 3-point line. Stevie Wonder could see that, champ.”
James hoped to find vindication when the league released its Last Two Minute Report on the game. Instead, the report, which was released on Sunday, affirmed the call on the floor.
“James’ (LAL) successful shot attempt was initially ruled a two-point shot by on-court referees,” the report reads. “Upon review by the NBA Replay Center Official, there was not clear and conclusive visual evidence that the on-court ruling was incorrect, and therefore no basis to overturn that ruling. When James raises his heels to jump for his shot, the replay shows his right foot rolling forward so that the toe of his shoe contacts the three-point line. For a player’s shot to be scored a three-point field goal, the player may not touch the three-point line until after his shot is released.”
Freeze frames of James squaring up appear to show his foot behind the line. However, closeups indicate that his toe might have rolled over the line as he gathered to shoot. It was about as close a call on a 3-pointer as you’ll ever see in the NBA.
Ultimately, the defeat dropped the Lakers to 17-16 on the season and 3-7 since they won the NBA’s inaugural In-Season Tournament. A win over Minnesota, the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference, might have helped them get back on track. But this team has problems far greater than a single replay decision. The Lakers had 48 minutes to beat the Timberwolves. The outcome did not hinge on a review that came with 2.3 seconds left on the clock.