Why the Lakers lost their last timeout despite successful challenge against Nuggets

The Lakers had 3.6 seconds to save their season.

That’s how much time was left when Denver’s Jamal Murray hit a 14-foot jumper over Austin Reaves to give the Nuggets a 108-106 lead Monday to put L.A. a few ticks away from elimination in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs.

With no timeouts at the Lakers’ disposal, a frantic sequence ensued at Ball Arena. Anthony Davis inbounded the ball from under the basket to LeBron James, who passed it to Taurean Prince, who launched a desperation shot at midcourt.

Airball. Game over. Season over for the Lakers.

If only if the Lakers had one more timeout to use after Murray’s basket. They could have set up a play, then inbounded the ball from half court with a much better chance to win or at least extend the game.

While Lakers coach Darvin Ham is under scrutiny for his timeout management, an NBA rule is also being called into question in this situation. With 3:05 remaining in the fourth quarter and the score tied at 99-99, Ham called the team’s final timeout to challenge a foul called on Davis.

Had the call been upheld, Denver superstar Nikola Jokic would have gone to the line with two free throws late and the Lakers would have lost their timeout. The call was overturned, however, preserving the tie score and giving the Lakers possession of the ball.

If that had been the Lakers’ first challenge of the night, the successful challenge would have resulted in the team retaining its final timeout. But Ham had already used a challenge back in the first quarter to have another call overturned.

According to NBA Rule No. 14, Section V-b, “if a team utilizes its second Challenge, the challenging team will not retain the timeout used to initiate its second Challenge even if the Challenge is successful.” So the Lakers had to play the final three minutes of regulation in a tight, must-win game with no timeouts.

After the game, “Inside the NBA” analyst Charles Barkley said the rule “doesn’t make sense.”

“I don’t understand how you could win a challenge, but lose a timeout,” the Hall of Famer said during TNT’s postgame show. “I mean, I understand the rules, but that just doesn’t seem fair to me.”

Fellow analyst Kenny Smith agreed.

“You should be able to keep your timeout,” he said. The referees “made the mistake, not us. We didn’t make the mistake, you made the mistake.”

Barkley added: “That didn’t cost them the game, but I’m saying I don’t understand, that just doesn’t seem fair. You made a mistake and I got screwed by your mistake, that ain’t right.”

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