LOS ANGELES — It was a scene nobody could ever remember seeing before.
With 2:31 left in the fourth quarter and the Lakers up eight, 114-106, the Rockets’ Kevin Porter Jr. fouled Kent Bazemore. The referees sent Bazemore to the free throw line for two because it was Houston’s fifth foul of the quarter, and Bazemore sank them both, putting the Lakers up 10.
Except it was the Rockets’ fourth foul, it should have been side out of bounds to the Lakers, no free throws. According to Anthony Davis, the officials said they looked up at the scoreboard, which said four team fouls because the Porter Jr. foul was put up quickly — so quickly the officials thought the foul had to be the fifth.
Play continued with the Lakers thinking they were up 10, then the Rockets’ Christian Wood went on a personal 5-0 run to cut the lead, and the Lakers called timeout with 1:35 left thinking they were up 116-111.
That’s when the officials were informed of and realized their mistake.
Their correction was to take Bazemore’s two points off the board, making it a 114-111 game.
Here's the bizarre decision late in the Lakers-Rockets game that led to the officials taking two points off the Lakers score pic.twitter.com/1zkak5Cglg
— Jacob Rude (@JacobRude) November 3, 2021
“It’s definitely something the league has got to look at,” Laker coach Frank Vogel said. “I understand the mindset to get it right… once play resumes you can’t correct that. You can’t correct it. The league has to look at that because they can’t give us that possession back. If it’s correct at the time of the call, we get the ball on the side and it’s our ball. But once that goes away, you can’t take the points away and not give us a possession back.”
Vogel’s point is valid — the Lakers lost a possession in the final three minutes of a tight game. Davis said he and LeBron James made the same argument to the officials.
“What me, Bron and coach were explaining to the refs was we lost a possession,” Davis said. “We didn’t take the ball out or anything. We shot free throws, [they] take the points away, and now we just lose the possession. Which could have cost the game.”
It almost did. The Lakers were up seven, 118-111, with :45 seconds left, when rookie Jalen Green reminded everyone why he was drafted No. 2 — he hit two ridiculous threes on back-to-back possessions to make it a one-point game, 118-117. The Rockets fouled Malik Monk with 6.6 seconds left, he hit just one of his two free throws, which opened the door for the Rockets.
Porter Jr. got a solid look at a three to win the game as time expired, but it hit off the back of the rim and the Lakers held on.
If that had gone in, the Lakers undoubtedly would have protested the game. As it is, we can just wait for tomorrow’s two-minute report and hope that has a better explanation of what went wrong. And what the proper correction would have been.