Lakers head coach Darvin Ham calls out officials over ‘inconsistency’ in loss to Suns

The Suns put up 45 points in the first quarter before picking up a 123-113 win over the Lakers in Phoenix

Darvin Ham didn’t hesitate to call out the officials after the Los Angeles Lakers’ 123-113 loss to the Phoenix Suns on Sunday.

The Lakers shot just eight free throws in the loss in Arizona, which marked a season low and matched the lowest amount they’ve shot in a single game since LeBron James arrived in Los Angeles. The Lakers also didn’t get to shoot a single free throw in the second half. By comparison, the Suns shot 19 free throws in the game at the Footprint Center.

"I'm not one to use referees as an excuse," Ham said, via ESPN. "But it's becoming increasingly tough because of the inconsistency. I'm seeing our guys get the same contact on them as we're supposedly committing. And the whistle is not being blown."

James, who had a team-high 28 points in the loss, went just 1-of-4 from the free throw line. Austin Reaves was the only other Lakers player to shoot multiple free throws. D’Angelo Russell and Rui Hachimura each attempted one.

Anthony Davis, who had 22 points and 12 rebounds, didn’t make it to the line at all, which is a season first. He averages just shy of seven attempts per game, and Sunday is the first time in his career that he didn’t attempt a shot from the line while playing at least 40 minutes, per ESPN.

LeBron James attempted four of the Lakers' eight free throw attempts in their loss to the Suns on Sunday.
LeBron James attempted four of the Lakers' eight free throw attempts in their loss to the Suns on Sunday. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Though Ham was very pointed with his comments, which is sure to earn him a fine from the league in the coming days, James handled the question differently. He just laughed.

"A lot of people, a lot of coaches, a lot of teams are like, 'That's all the Lakers do is get to the free throw line,'" James said. "It's like this narrative out there that that's all we do is get to the free throw line. I mean, we have attackers. That's what we do. We have attackers. Yeah, we shoot the ball from the perimeter, but we're not shooting 40 to 50 3s a game. We're not that team. We don't have the luxury of being that team. So, working it into the paint, that's what we're really good at.

"To have eight free throw attempts is definitely not us. I know, definitely, I got hit a couple times when I got to the paint tonight that wasn't called. But it is what it is."

The Lakers had plenty of other issues in the loss, so it’s hard to blame the free throws for everything. The Suns shot better than 47% from the field as a team and all five of their starters had at least 18 points. The Suns put up 45 points in the first quarter, too, and led nearly the entire way. Kevin Durant led Phoenix with 22 points, and Devin Booker had 21 points and nine assists. Jusuf Nurkic nearly had a triple-double, too, with 18 points, 22 rebounds and seven assists.

The Lakers fell to 31-28 on the season after the loss, and they’ve dropped two of their last three games coming out of the All-Star break. They’ll take on the Los Angeles Clippers next on Wednesday.

Though it will take more than making it to the free throw line to solve their problems and get them winning again, Ham was incredibly upset on Sunday with what he saw as very inconsistent officiating.

“I'm telling my guys to drive downhill,” Ham said. “We're trying to love and live in the paint. And you're not getting calls. I see guys with their hands in our guys' ribs or swinging, swiping at their heads, trying to block the shot but not getting the ball, but getting a piece of the body. And it's not being called, as simple as that.

"So, we have to figure out ways to not let that be a problem, but it's tough. Again, it's frustrating when there's so much inconsistency."