The Phoenix Suns bowed out of the NBA's inaugural in-season tournament on Tuesday night, falling to the Los Angeles Lakers 106-103 in contencious circumstances. The loss not only dropped the Suns to 12-9 in the regular season, it was also the third time they have lost to the Lakers so far this season.
While that is not a good omen should the two meet down the road in the playoffs, the manner in which the Suns lost and watched the Lakers pack their bags for Las Vegas and the Final Four was certainly controversial. With time winding down and the Lakers holding a slender 105-103 point lead, it looked like the Suns had successfully trapped Austin Reeves into giving up the ball.
Instead, when the ball was no longer under the control of Reeves, the referees blew their whistle and awarded the Lakers a timeout. When asked about it after the game, referee Josh Tiven said that the timeout had been called while the ball was still under control by Reeves, because it was in his left hand and pinned to his left leg.
"During live play the official felt that LA still had possession of the ball when LeBron James requested the timeout. Through postgame video review in slow motion replay, we did see that Austin Reaves had his left hand on the ball while it’s pinned against his left leg, which does constitute control."- Josh Tiven, Crew Chief at Lakers vs Suns
Looking back on the play, what do you think about a timeout being successfully called once it was clear the Lakers were about to give up possession under pressure?
Unsurprisingly, Devin Booker and Kevin Durant weighed in on their thoughts about what had just gone down on the court when pressed after the game.
Booker finished with a relatively quiet 21 points - although his 11 assists led the team as it has so many times so far this season - and he was in no mood to be diplomatic when asked to give his thoughts on the play that led to the Lakers sneaking out another win over his side. The Suns had started slowly, but in the second-quarter went on a run to make this a close contest.
Durant was in more serene form when it was his turn to speak to the media. Rather than zone in on that particular moment, he instead opted to come at the game from the side that the Suns should never have been in that position in the first place. Their slow start and subsequent having to play catch-up leading to that critical moment in the game when the timeout was called.
Even former players appeared to have their say, with Mikal Bridges - now of the Brooklyn Nets - jumping online to make his feelings on the game and that decision be known. Suns fans have always had a soft spot for Bridges since he was traded as part of the package that netted the franchise Durant, and this will have done nothing to change that opinion.
There will be some out there who will think that the NBA did all that they could to ensure their most famous player - LeBron James - made it to the semi-finals of the first iteration of this tournament. The fact he is in with a chance of lifting a trophy in not only it's first season, but also because no other all-time great has had the opportunity to do the same thing, is worth tuning in for.
But the Suns and their fans can't think in this way. Having Bradley Beal would have helped, even if it is unclear when he is going to return to the court, but through three games some bigger picture details have emerged. Namely that the Lakers currently have the size to really bother the Suns, and up to this point at least, they have their number. That call by the referees though, did not help their cause.