The NBA In-Season Tournament is living up to the hype that the league has built around it. The Los Angeles Lakers and Phoenix Suns squared off in the quarterfinal on Tuesday night in a game that had a legitimate playoff atmosphere.
Los Angeles moved onto the semi-final (and Las Vegas) with a closely contested 106-103 win over the Suns. The win did not come without controversy, though, as a key moment late in the game seemingly went the Lakers' way when fans thought it shouldn't have.
With pressure from Devin Booker and Kevin Durant, Austin Reaves lost possession of the basketball late in the game with a two-point lead. However, LeBron James was savvy enough to call timeout before the Suns could regain possession, saving the Lakers in the process.
You cannot call a timeout in the NBA without possession of the basketball and many believed that the timeout call came after Reaves lost possession of the basketball. However, a new multi-camera slow-motion replay of the play reveals that is not the case. LeBron smartly called the timeout while Reaves was pinning the ball against his body. You can see the replay in the tweet below.
NBA confirms controversial Lakers timeout vs Suns as the right call
This slow-motion replay should be enough to show Suns fans that this game was blatantly rigged in favor of the Lakers. However, just for safe measure, the league came out after the game. The NBA's pool report confirmed that LeBron initially called the timeout while Reaves pinned the ball against his leg, which is considered possession.
It is totally understandable to be upset in the moment, but it becomes pretty clear thanks to the help of slow motion that this was a legal timeout for the Lakers. Frank Vogel and Booker complaining to the media after, when they had access to replays of the play, is a bit disingenuous.
Plus, it isn't like the Suns didn't get another chance after this call. Phoenix had a chance to tie the game after Anthony Davis missed his second free throw that would have extended LA's lead to four. What happened? Kevin Durant took a three 1.5 seconds earlier than he probably need to and air-balled it.
But nobody is talking about that. Why are we all assuming that if the Suns did get the ball there they would have scored? Heck, even if they scored a two, the Lakers would have still gotten the last possession of the game to try and win it.
The refs made the right call regardless of how upset it might make Lakers haters feel. And at the end of the day, ball doesn't lie. Duran't air-balled three proves that.