Miami – The Lakers’ attempt began as a disaster, then almost turned into a miracle.
Where they landed in the end was somewhere in the middle of unsatisfactory – and at a loss.
The final 113-107 margin didn’t give enough context to the pit started by the Lakers, and how impressively they dug themselves out of it. But the bottom line is the bottom line, and after wiping out most of the 26-point deficit and coming within four points with 1:07 remaining, the players were left shaking their heads after their fifth loss in seven games. .
“I mean we just started off a little bit – very slowly,” Russell Westbrook shouted at the stat sheet. “But with our intensity picked it up a little too late.”
The Lakers trailed by 23 points in the fourth quarter with 8:38. That’s when Westbrook (24 points, 9 assists, 9 rebounds) helped turn things around with his signature intensity. LeBron James, who finished with a game-high 33 points, followed suit. The Lakers were also picked up by Avery Bradley by four second-half 3-pointers, finishing with 15 points.
The FTX area was quiet unilaterally in the first forty minutes. The Miami crowd grew when James – who won two championships with the franchise – scored on the putback with 1:07 remaining.
But there was not to be a spellbound return: after the Lakers earned the ball back with a crucial stop with seven seconds to spare, Talen Horton-Tucker threw an inbound pass into the back court just over James’s reach. Caleb Martin runs out to Westbrook for a smooth transition bucket and a dagger.
Coach Frank Vogel removed the mistake from Horton-Tucker’s shoulders, implying that some pressure-release actions were not executed correctly on the play. But in the bigger picture, the Lakers thought they shouldn’t harm themselves as quickly as they did.
“You drop 39 points in the first quarter, 69 at the half, it’s not a very well-trained team for us trying to win on the road,” James said.
Miami’s early plans were as cheesy as the Lakers’ shoddy ones. The Heat stunned its guests with a mix of screens, timely off-ball cuts and deadeye 3-point shooting. He scored 16 for 24 off the field in the first quarter, including 20 points in the paint and six 3-pointers.
Often, the Lakers found a defender guarding two Miami Raiders, or ran into the screen set for corner 3-pointers. Jimmy Butler, whom James himself called one of his favorite opponents, had a 20-point, 12-assist, 10-rebound triple-double as he throttled the controls for a heat offense. Incidentally, Butler surpassed James in the game for the most triple-doubles in franchise history (10).
Bradley, who is often credited as the Lakers’ defensive tone setter, said he was disappointed with the weak start at that end.
“Everyone in the locker room, we have to tie together,” he said. “I think we are up and down. We are not learning from our mistakes and as a seasoned team, as a team that wants to go a long way in the post season, I think we have to learn from our mistakes. Have to improve and learn from them.
The game improved somewhat as the Lakers got smaller and began to switch to more assets. Bradley said it was easier to read once the Lakers made the change, which showed the Heat retaining just 44 points in the second half.
But the Lakers’ offense also took time to progress: In the third quarter, he scored just 18 points at 7 for 19 shoots and six turnovers. Carmelo Anthony (3 for eight) and Malik Monk (3 for 6) struggled to bring their usual bright spots off the bench. Even though Miami lacked Kyle Lowry and Tyler Herro, their four reserves matched the Lakers’ six-man bench effort (35 points).
The Lakers were hoping for the return of Anthony Davis, indicating that he may return for one of the remaining four games of Road Trip. But Westbrook meant the Lakers couldn’t trust that getting their star, Big Man, was going to fix the problems that have plagued them lately.
“No one is going to change every aspect of what we’re doing,” he said.
It will take a team to solve them.