Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press
Denver Nuggets head coach Michael Malone was not pleased with the free-throw disparity in his team’s 114-108 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in Thursday’s Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals.
Los Angeles shot 35 free throws compared to Denver’s 23, and LeBron James and Anthony Davis each shot 14.
“I’m going to have to go through the proper channels like they did to get some more free throws,” Malone said, per Mark Medina of USA Today.
Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times noted the Lakers presented a formal case for more whistles for James to the league’s office after he shot just two free throws in a Game 3 loss.
“We’re dealing with the fouls through the proper channels with the league,” Lakers head coach Frank Vogel said. “I think he’s gone to the basket very aggressively, and I’ll just leave it at that.”
That Malone was upset is not exactly surprising. His team’s comeback efforts were dealt a major blow when Nikola Jokic was whistled for his fourth and fifth fouls early in the fourth quarter, and the Lakers were rewarded with a number of free throws in critical times.
Still, LeBron is a physical player who often overpowers defenders on his way to the rim.
There are few players in the entire league who can realistically expect to stop him without fouling throughout the course of the game, and Denver eliminated one of them when it defeated Kawhi Leonard’s L.A. Clippers in the second round.
Players such as Jerami Grant and Paul Millsap can only do so much against the all-time great, and officials were likely paying closer attention to LeBron’s drives given that it was such a notable subject following Game 3.
If there is a silver lining for the Nuggets, it is the fact they have already overcome two 3-1 deficits in these playoffs and were right there with the Lakers on Thursday despite the free-throw difference and Jokic being on the bench for extended stretches of the fourth quarter.
If they can bounce back in Saturday’s Game 5, the storyline may very well switch from James’ free throws to Denver starting another 3-1 comeback.
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