Bad reffing didn’t beat the Lakers—the Celtics did.


Social media erupted after referees missed a foul committed by Celtic Jayson Tatum on Lakers’ LeBron James. (Photos via Creative Commons)

By Jason Tulchin, Assistant Sports Editor

The Boston Celtics broke their three-game losing streak in a controversial 121-125 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday—a game that took the NBA by storm. Everything from LeBron James’ meltdown following an uncalled Jayson Tatum foul to Pat Beverly catching a technical foul after trying to show the ref the play with a camera, there were plenty of memorable moments that fans won’t forget anytime soon. 

While Celtics fans are already clowning “LeBaby” for his reactions on the court and over social media, Lakers fans are firing back, claiming their overtime loss came not from being out-played, but out-reffed: the accusations go as far as claiming that referee Eric Lewis was missing calls because of bias to the Celtics. 

The rivalry between the Celtics and the Lakers is the greatest in NBA history, with the two teams arguably the most successful franchises on their respective coasts. When it comes down to wins and losses, though, Boston has LA beat—not just historically, where the C’s have won 208 of 372 head-to-head matchups games—but also in the current 2022-2023 season: halfway through the season, the Celtics are now 2-0 against the Lakers.

The Lakers are an amazing franchise in their own right, producing some of the best teams and players in NBA history. While they haven’t procured as many title wins and MVPs as the Celtics, they’ve produced many of the all-time GOATs: LeBron James, Kareem Abdul-Jabar, Kobe Bryant, and Shaquielle O’Neal, to name a few. The Celtics have had greats of their own—Larry Bird, Kevin Garnett, and Bill Russell—but while the Lakers shine as individuals, the Celtics consistently dominate as a team. And when both teams face off on the court, the Celtics have come out on top most of the time—it’s indisputable.

We saw that on the court Saturday: LeBron—fast approaching Abdul-Jabar’s all-time scoring record—led the game in scoring with 41 points, matching Tatum layup-for-layup. He went heavy on the two-pointers since the Lakers only shot 30 percent from the three-point line. James and Anthony Davis got their shooting mojo back in the third quarter after snatching the lead back. Near the end of the game, the Celtics did right by staying tight to the Lakers’ lead before tying it up in the fourth quarter, on account of Tatum, who drained three three-pointers for 15 points to close the gap. 

It was electrifying to watch his chemistry with Jaylen Brown, the pair breaking past LA’s defense to score on Tatum’s shots or Brown’s rebounds. Malcom Brogdon, traded from the Indiana Pacers earlier in the season, also found his groove in the second half, tallying 15 of his 26 points as the game neared the end of regulation.

While many point to Tatum obviously fouling James by batting his arm as he went for what would’ve been a tie breaking layup, LA wouldn’t have needed James’ layup if Beverley hadn’t fouled Brown on the previous possession and given the Celtics the points needed to tie up the Lakers again. His—admittedly hilarious—technical foul also gave the Celtics the free throw needed to start overtime in the lead.

After overtime began, though, the Celtics put their foot on the gas. Brown came out scoring the first six points and kept the C’s in the lead until the clock ran out.

Even after NBA officials admitted not calling a foul on Tatum at the end of regulation was the wrong move, it wasn’t the only reason that the Lakers lost the game. Both teams played impeccably—James even said it was one of the best games they’d played all year—but the Lakers can’t claim they lost solely because of bad reffing any more than Tatum can brush off the importance of the foul.