The Los Angeles Lakers were headed for a second confusing loss to the Orlando Magic this season, then stormed back to take the lead, only to watch it evaporate in the final minute of the fourth quarter. That alone would be enough of a storyline, but the game took a turn that confused all and infuriated some.
After Aaron Gordon’s layup gave the Magic a one-point lead with five seconds remaining, Brook Lopez drew a foul on Nikola Vucevic with 0.6 seconds left on the clock. Lopez calmly drained both free throws to give the Lakers a decided lead.
He was then tasked with obstructing Magic guard Mario Hezona’s attempt to inbound the ball. Hezona lofted a pass toward the basket, where Gordon attempted to complete the lob. It was deflected, but the buzzer sounded before the ball had been touched.
The referees gathered to discuss what transpired, but it was the NBA’s replay center in New Jersey took control of the situation, and ruled a jump ball at center court. That left the Magic with zero chance at a game-winning basket, much to the ire of head coach Frank Vogel.
“We got the deflection, so I was upset that that happened,” Walton said of the sequence. “And then obviously when I heard the explanation, Frank was a little more upset than I was. When it got to be a clock issue, they make the call from [Secaucus, N.J.].
“That’s a tough rule, I was unaware of that rule.”
Head referee Bill Spooner told a pool reporter it was determined the clock “malfunctioned” since it began — and wound down — without the ball first being touched. “Anytime there is either an inadvertent whistle and/or a horn when the ball is in the air, there’s no possession and we go to center circle. Jump ball,” Spooner added.
Gordon, who scored a game-high 28 points, said the Magic were “cheated” by the ruling. “We have to change that rule,” he added. “The inadvertent whistle didn’t even give us a chance to win the game. That’s not how the game of basketball should go.”
The Lakers, although relieved to have avoided a second consecutive late-game collapse, were dumfounded by the series of events. “I still don’t even know how it ended. I don’t even know what the call was or what the case may be. I’m just glad we won,” Isaiah Thomas said.
Said Lonzo Ball: “I’ve never seen that before, but I’ll take the win.” Kyle Kuzma also deemed it something he’d “never really seen.”
Lopez with his quick wit and Stanford education succinctly had an apt explanation. “I guess we had the game-winning jump ball,” he joked.