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LeBron James' Controversial Timeout Sparks Debate As Lakers Secure In-Season Tournament Semifinal Spot

The Los Angeles Lakers secured a spot in the In-Season Tournament semifinals in Las Vegas by defeating the Phoenix Suns with a score of 106-103 in Tuesday's quarterfinals. However, the win wasn't spared of a controversy.

LeBron James' Controversial Timeout Sparks Debate as Lakers Reach In-Season Tournament Semifinal
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The Los Angeles Lakers received a significant advantage in their victory against the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday, as officials granted LeBron James a timeout during a crucial moment in the game when a loose ball was in play.

Securing a victory eliminated the Suns from the NBA's in-season tournament and ensured the Lakers a place in the semifinals. The Lakers will now move on to face the New Orleans Pelicans in Las Vegas on Thursday.

The incident occurred following an inbounds play with 11.2 seconds left on the clock and the Lakers holding a 105-103 lead. LeBron James inbounded the ball from the baseline beneath the Lakers' basket to Austin Reaves after a Kevin Durant layup that narrowed the Lakers' lead to two points.

Devin Booker contested Reaves, leading to Reaves losing control of the ball. Meanwhile, along the opposite sideline, James appealed to referee Tom Washington for a timeout. Although the ball was already loose, Washington granted the timeout. It was a decision that went in favour of the Lakers, owing to his clearer view of James' request than the unfolding play on the opposite side of the court.

Suns assistants implored Washington for an explanation during the timeout, but there was no recourse. Once Washington approved the timeout, it was written in stone. The play was not eligible for replay review or reversal.

If the untimely timeout hadn't occurred, Suns guard Grayson Allen would have had an opportunity to control the loose ball. This could have granted the Suns possession with approximately seven seconds left, while trailing by two points. However, in accordance with the situation, the Lakers retained possession. Subsequently, Anthony Davis made a free throw after a foul on the other end, extending the Los Angeles lead to 106-103.

With no timeouts left, the Suns were unable to advance the ball to halfcourt after Anthony Davis missed the second of two free throws, and Devin Booker secured the rebound. In a hurried attempt, Kevin Durant missed a 3-pointer as the buzzer sounded, sealing the Lakers' victory with a final score of 106-103.

Following the game, pool reporter Jovan Buha from The Athletic questioned crew chief Josh Tiven about the incident, and he stood by the call. "During live play the official felt that LA still had possession of the ball when LeBron James requested the timeout," Tiven said. "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."

Devin Brooks On Lakers v. Suns Controversy

Shortly after the final buzzer, Booker expressed his perspective by sharing a screenshot of the play on Instagram. The image clearly depicts the ball as loose while James signaled for a timeout.

In his press conference, he conveyed to reporters that the Suns simply desire "a fair chance" to win the game.

"It is what it is," Booker said. "Refs miss calls sometimes. But when they're that obvious, it's tough."

He also responded to inquiries about whether he committed a foul on Reaves before the ball became loose.

"My hands are back," Booker said. "Reaves tried to draw a foul. Once we bumped into each other, I think he was trying to get the ball back since then. That's a good three, four, five seconds to build up before LeBron grabbed the referee and called a timeout. ...

"When they put so much anticipation on the game, we're not asking for favoritism, just a fair chance."

Suns head coach Frank Vogel also offered his perspectives during his postgame news conference.

"You can't call a timeout on a loose ball," Vogel said. "You can't do it. So if the whistle blows, I don't know why — everything in the league is reviewable — I don't know why that can't be reviewable. I know it's not a foul or an out of bounds, which is like a challenge.

"But at any point in the game the whistle blows inadvertently, the ref can huddle up and say inadvertent whistle. Where were we at during the game? And that did not happen. Extremely disappointing."

The NBA and Commissioner Adam Silver aimed to generate buzz with the new in-season tournament. It's safe to say that the kind of attention generated by this incident wasn't what they had in mind.

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