Lakers have surprise group to thank if they finish 8th in the West

The Lakers benefitted from four referee errors in a crucial win over the Grizzlies.
Los Angeles Lakers, LeBron James
Los Angeles Lakers, LeBron James / Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers needed to defeat the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday night and get help if they were going to climb to eighth in the Western Conference. It is a massive edge with the current Play-In Tournament format. Being eighth gives a team two chances to win one game to advance to the playoffs. If the Lakers are ninth or tenth, they must win two straight and the prize is facing the number one seed in the opening round.

Everything broke right for LA on April 12. Despite a poor performance against the undermanned Grizzlies, LeBron James saved the Lakers and willed them to victory. They entered the night tied with the Warriors and Kings, but both teams lost to allow Los Angeles to control their destiny. A win in the regular season finale secures the Lakers eighth in the West. The Nuggets also lost and likely knocked themselves out of the top-seed.

King James dropped 37 points on 13 of 20 shooting from the field versus Memphis. His team needed every ounce of it, but they have the referee crew to thank for the victory. The officials made three incorrect rulings that all benefitted the Lakers in the final minutes, plus had one of the most bizarre clock malfunction of the season.

Clock malfunction forces Lakers and Grizzlies to play 49-plus minutes

A third-quarter clock issue saw an extra 66 seconds added to the game. Memphis committed a shot clock violation with 1:14 left in the third quarter, but when play resumed there was 2:20 on the board. Nobody noticed and corrected the error. Both teams played out the 140 seconds with the Grizzlies going from up one to down one heading into the fourth.

It seems impossible that nobody caught this in real-time. The Lakers needed the extra time as they earned a hard-fought win, but it was not the only beneficial call of the evening.

Lakers benefitted from missed calls in win over Grizzlies

The NBA's Last Two Minute Report for Friday’s game featured three incorrect calls. LeBron James traveled twice in the final 120 seconds, but neither was given. Rui Hachimura also fouled GG Jackson in the final moments with the Lakers up three. It was not called and virtually iced the game for LA.

The Lakers certainly benefitted from the officiating on Friday night, and some would say every game. No team commits fewer fouls than LA at 15.7 per game. They draw the fourth-most fouls and have the largest positive gap in the NBA.

It was a must-win game for the Los Angeles Lakers, so the franchise will take whatever they can get. The seeding could still get wild if LA loses to the Pelicans in New Orleans. The Lakers could still drop to tenth or remain in the eighth. LeBron and company need to handle their business. There will be zero worries if it happens.

This is no knock on the referees. They have a difficult job to do and make mistakes. The Lakers should be thankful. Without those missed calls, Los Angeles may be staring at the tenth and an almost certain quick postseason exit. The win gave them hope and could be what sparks a deep playoff run. Do not count out King James or his team.