By Robert Lutz
After the Los Angeles Lakers narrowly defeated the Toronto Raptors 132-131, Toronto coach Darko Rajakovic unleashed a vehement criticism of the officiating, especially highlighting the disparity in free throw opportunities during the game’s final quarter on Tuesday night.
Rajakovic, in his first year leading the Raptors, expressed frustration over the Lakers attempting 23 free throws in the fourth quarter, while his team had only two. He was particularly incensed by the performance of Lakers’ Anthony Davis, who scored 20 of his 41 points in the last quarter, making all 11 free throw attempts in that period. Davis took 14 of the Lakers’ 36 free throws in the game, compared to Toronto’s 13.
“This is completely B.S.,” Rajakovic said, repeatedly hitting the table for emphasis. “This is shame. Shame for the referees. Shame for the league to allow this. Twenty-three free throws for them, and we get two free throws in the fourth quarter? Like, how to play the game?”
Davis’ performance was key for the Lakers, contributing 11 rebounds and going 13 for 17 overall. In the final 1:01, he scored 10 points, including eight successful free throws and a crucial block on Barnes.
The coach’s outburst is likely to result in a fine from the NBA, but his team appeared to support his stance. “It just says that he’s all for us as a family, as a team,” said Thaddeus Young, Toronto’s starting center who scored 10 points.
For the Raptors, Barnes scored 26 points and Pascal Siakam added 25. RJ Barrett, recently acquired from New York, contributed 23 points, while Immanuel Quickley, also new from the Knicks, scored 21 points including four 3-pointers. This was only the second loss for the Raptors in their last five games and a rare defeat in Los Angeles, where they had won seven of their previous eight visits.
Meanwhile, LeBron James led the Lakers with 22 points and 12 assists, marking their first back-to-back wins in a month. The Lakers had struggled after winning the inaugural NBA In-Season Tournament in December, going 3-10 before these successive victories.
The game’s climax saw Davis and Austin Reaves combining for 10 consecutive free throws in the final 34 seconds, countering late 3-pointers by Toronto’s Dennis Schröder and Gary Trent Jr. Quickley fouled out after elbowing Cam Reddish with a flagrant foul, and Barrett’s offensive foul nullified a tying 3-pointer by Barnes.
Toronto was without Jakob Poeltl, their starting center, due to a sprained left ankle sustained in a win at Golden State. Poeltl, a University of Utah product, has been a key player for the Raptors, leading the NBA in shooting percentage at 68.5%.