LeBron James, Anthony Davis among Lakers dismayed with lack of foul calls in loss to Suns

As one of the league’s streakier jump-shooting sides, much of the Lakers’ success hinges on their ability to drive downhill, get to the cup and draw contact.

It’s been an effective strategy over the course of the season, all things considered. Los Angeles came into Sunday’s clash with the Suns averaging 24.6 free throws per night, the sixth-highest rate in the league.

For a team marred with inconsistency, a desire to trot down to the charity stripe proved something to hang its hat on. Against Phoenix, however, even the most ubiquitous of Lakers traits slipped away.

L.A. recorded a meager eight free throws on Sunday, 11 fewer than the Suns. It represented the Lakers’ lowest free-throw total this year. It also tied the mark for the fewest free throws recorded in a single game since LeBron James joined the franchise back in 2018.

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The disparity proved quite consequential in the end. Phoenix claimed a decisive 123-113 victory. A central reason why, according to those in the tropical disposition, was the Suns’ free throw edge.

“To have eight free throw attempts is definitely not us,” James said postgame. “I know, definitely, I got hit a couple times when I got to the paint tonight that wasn’t called. But it is what it is.”

James averages 5.4 free throws a night. He received four on Sunday. His fellow Showtime supernova, Anthony Davis, nets 6.8 free throw attempts per game. He recorded zero on Sunday, the first time this season he hasn’t visited the charity stripe.

“We live on getting to the line. We attack the basket,” Davis said. “Especially how much we struggle from the 3, we’re kind of up and down, so we try to live in the paint and get to the line. I’m not sure if it was just the refs missing it or they weren’t fouling. I felt I got fouled a couple of times. But that’s part of our identity, our DNA, is getting to the line and guys catching rhythms like that and then playing from there.”

Davis had never played a game where he recorded 40 or minutes without attempting a free throw before Sunday. It was a discouraging sight, said Lakers boss Darwin Ham.

“I’m not one to use referees as an excuse,” Ham said. “But it’s becoming increasingly tough because of the inconsistency. I’m seeing our guys get the same contact on them as we’re supposedly committing. And the whistle is not being blown.”

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Los Angeles gave itself a mountain to climb after surrendering 45 points in the first quarter. Phoenix’s lead ballooned to as many as 20 points before the Lakers mounted a comeback. But it was too little, too late in the end.

“I see guys with their hands in our guys’ ribs or swinging, swiping at their heads, trying to block the shot but not getting the ball, but getting a piece of the body,” Ham added. “And it’s not being called, as simple as that.”

With its defeat, Los Angeles dropped to 31-28, falling to 3.5 games back of the 34-24 Suns for sixth place in the Western Conference.


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