The NBA In-Season Tournament hasn't failed to deliver a spectacle.
Despite the skepticism by some fans to the newest inclusion to the season, the IST has brought great games and, more importantly in the league's point of view, great ratings. Those two factors combined into one game last night, with the Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Lakers playing in a classic.
LeBron James (31 points, 11 assists, 8 rebounds, 5 steals) and Anthony Davis (27 points, 15 rebounds, 2 blocks) outdueled Kevin Durant (31 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists) and Devin Booker (21 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists) in a 106-103 win, with Austin Reaves being the protagonist of the play that made the ultimate difference. Now, what that play is depends on who you ask. Lakers fans will point to his clutch three that gave the Lakers a four-point cushion with 15 seconds to play. Everyone else will point to this one that went viral.
It was a controversial play with Reaves having the ball in his hands: he was pressured (some will say fouled, but that's another discussion) by Booker into losing the ball, and it seemed the Suns would've recovered to potentially tie the game, but the referees called the play dead because of a timeout. While Reaves was having trouble, James was by the Lakers bench calling a timeout, and it was awarded to Los Angeles, who went on to hit a free throw to make it a three point game and get a stop to win it.
Kevin Durant chooses the high road in reaction to controversy
Booker, who knocked the ball away, took to social media after the game to express his frustrations, and expanded on those thoughts later. The league, however, doubled down, with Crew Chief Josh Tiven defending the call in a postgame Pool Report, and in defending it today in their Last Two Minute Report. Durant, on the other hand, chose to move on from the issue, pointing to his team to do better to avoid those situations:
Whether you're a fan or an athlete, this is the right mindset to have. Regardless of whether a late call is right or wrong (in this case, I believe giving the Lakers the timeout was wrong), a team should always strive to play better and take the power away from the officiating. There's always room to improve on mistakes and avoid getting into situations where a call (or lack thereof) decides a game.
I'm sure that Durant looks at their turnovers (20 compared to the Lakers' 9; 12 between Durant and Booker) as a bigger reason for their loss than the late timeout call.