Last night against the Rockets, the Lakers needed every bit of LeBron’s 48 points to secure the 140-132 win.
The Rockets are a 10-34 basketball team.
LeBron was a +19 and the Lakers won the game by 8. So they were outscored by 11 when he was on the bench. He was on the bench for 12 minutes, so pretty much all of LeBron’s efforts were squandered when he rested.
The Lakers also only had 2 turnovers in the game as a team. That’s an unbelievable feat for a team to only have 2 turnovers in a game. This might not be accurate as I saw it on Twitter, but apparently the Lakers in their 75 year history have never had just 2 turnovers in a game. According to Statmuse, only 7 teams in NBA history have had 2 turnovers in a game and the Lakers are one of them. The record is one turnover in a game, and it was done by the Nuggets in February 2021.
So LeBron, who at age 38 was playing on a back to back, needed 48—an efficient 48, too: he was 16-26 from the floor—and the Lakers had to have one of the best team performances ever in terms of taking care of the ball, in order to beat the 10-34 Rockets.
The Lakers simply could not defend. There’s always something that bites them in the rear. Whether it’s defense, shooting, free throws, coaching decisions, there’s always something.
In the previous game against Philly, which the Lakers lost 113-112, the refs missed an obvious foul by Joel Embiid on Russell Westbrook’s I’ll-fated attempt to win the game at the end:
And they even came out and said after the game that the refs were correct in not calling that a foul. Incredible.
However, it should never have even come to that. LeBron was +19 in the game, and the Lakers lost by a point:
+19 in a game they lost by 1. LeBron played 35 minutes and the Lakers were outscored by 20 in the 13 minutes he sat.
If it wasn’t already crystal clear, the Lakers roster is in dire need of upgrades.
The Lakers are clearly good enough to compete with the top teams in the league. They’ve barely lost to Philly twice in recent weeks. They would’ve beaten Boston had AD not missed those free throws at the end.
They should have beaten Dallas the other night but for some reason Darvin Ham didn’t have them foul Luka late in regulation when the Lakers were up 3. Luka is a spotty free throw shooter, and for some reason the Lakers chose not to foul him, and instead watched as he banged a three while being guarded by Dennis Schroeder. There were only 6 seconds left on the clock, and it ended up being the shot that sent the game to overtime. The Lakers would lose in double overtime.
It’s crazy how flawed this Lakers team is and yet how close they still are to being not only in the playoffs but the 6 seed—meaning they would totally avoid the play-in.
The West is wide open this year. If Anthony Davis can come back soon and remain healthy, there is no reason this Lakers squad—with a few additions at the trade deadline—couldn’t compete for a championship. They are a few moves away from being legitimate contenders.
There is no excuse for Jeanie and Rob to stand pat here. Not making a move is sabotage, transparent tanking. It would show that they do not care about winning.
Additionally, we have to talk about LeBron’s whistle this year, or lack thereof.
There is no superstar player with as bad a whistle as LeBron’s this season.
Let’s take a look at the top 10 scorers in the league and see how often they get to the free throw line:
So LeBron ranks 6th in the league in scoring at 29.7ppg, but 16th in the league in free throw attempts per game at just 6.1.
Guys like Luka, Embiid, Tatum, SGA and Giannis all rank in the top-5 in scoring, and in the top-6 in free throws per game. LeBron is an outlier here.
This in and of itself isn’t a problem, because it depends on how those points were scored. If a guy takes a lot of his shots from outside and doesn’t drive to the rim frequently, he probably won’t get to the free throw line as often as guys who are constantly attacking the rim.
The problem is that LeBron does attack the rim. His average field goal distance from the rim is 12.4 feet, which is closer than Luka, Tatum, KD and Dame. Yet LeBron averages fewer free throw attempts per game than they do.
LeBron and Donovan Mitchell are pretty close in free throw attempts per game. LeBron gets 6.1 on average, Mitchell gets about 5.9. The difference here is that LeBron’s average field goal distance is 12.4 feet, while Mitchell’s is 16.8. Mitchell is getting to the free throw line about as much as LeBron is, yet Mitchell is way more of an outside shooter.
In other words, LeBron gets the whistle like he’s an outside shooter, when he’s not at all.
31.6% of LeBron’s field goal attempts are made within 0-3 feet of the rim, which is the second highest number in the top-10 scorers. Only Giannis has a higher close field goal rate at 47.9%.
The difference is that LeBron has a free throw rate (the ratio of free throws attempted per field goal attempt) of just .269, while Giannis is at a whopping .621.
LeBron is a massive outlier in the top-10 scorers in the league in terms of Free Throw Rate, ranking 107th in the league. The only other guy even close to him is Donovan Mitchell at 94th, but as we just went over, Mitchell is way more of an outside shooter.
LeBron does not get calls. The refs are treating him way differently from all the other top scorers, and given how much LeBron attacks the rim, he should probably be getting almost double the free throw attempts he gets.
This is part of the reason you’re seeing LeBron shoot 22.6 field goal attempts per game, which is pretty far above his career average: he’s not getting calls. If you go up for a shot and you get fouled, unless you make it for an and-one, it is not counted as a field goal attempt. That’s why guys like Embiid and Giannis appear to be shooting the ball less frequently than LeBron–because they are getting to the line so a lot of their field goal attempts are actually showing up in the free throw attempt column.
Something is going on here. The Lakers front office refuses to make a trade to get LeBron the pieces he needs to compete, and the refs are not sending him to the free throw line anywhere near as much as they should. LeBron is being singled out here.
Based on the amount of field goal attempts LeBron has at or around the rim, he should be getting to the line almost twice as much has he is. Giannis shoots almost 13 free throw attempts per game, which is more than double what LeBron shoots.
LeBron should be at least around 10-11 free throw attempts per game.
If LeBron was getting a proper whistle, he would probably be averaging 32-33 points per game, maybe even 34. LeBron is shooting 75.8% from the line, which is the 5th-highest mark of his career.
The amazing thing is that LeBron is still shooting 51.1% from the floor overall, despite not getting anywhere near the calls he should be getting, and despite a historically cold three point shooting stretch for him.
He’s hitting 60.4% of his 2-point field goal attempts, which is the 4th best mark of his career and better than all but a handful of players in the top-50 in scoring this year: Nikola Jokic (an absurd 66.6% on 2s), KD (a career best 62.2%), Domantas Sabonis (63.7%), and Christian Wood (62.4%). Three of the four guys ahead of LeBron in 2 point percentage are bigs.
So basically, KD and LeBron are by far the best non-big 2 point shooters in the league.
LeBron is doing this while opposing players are getting away with hacking him left and right, because the refs don’t give him the whistle at all.
This is why LeBron complains to the refs so much. This is not unique to this season, either–it’s just way more noticably bad this year. Ever since LeBron went to Miami in 2011, his Free Throw Rate has been steadily dropping with each passing year. Now it has gotten to a point where it’s pretty obvious the refs are out to get him. They are.
The numbers back it up. It’s undeniable. It’s a fact.
He’s absolutely right to be complaining to the refs all the time.
Of course, the LeBron haters won’t care when presented with the facts.
They don’t care if LeBron is justified in complaining to the refs. They just want to make any excuse to continue hating him.
I’m sure they’re happy the refs are screwing him over.