In the Lakers’ case there were two very obvious candidates.
What went wrong on the Lakers’ attempted game-winner?
Down 109-108 with 16.8 seconds left following some more Jimmy Butler heroics, the Lakers were clearly poised to finish the season in classic fashion. One basket, and another Larry O’Brien Trophy was headed to Los Angeles.
What happened instead began with the ball in the hands of LeBron James, to the surprise of no one. Facing Butler at halfcourt, James burnt off a few seconds before Danny Green arrived to set a screen. James took the ball the other way and drove for the paint.
At that point, all but one Heat defenders converged on the Lakers star. James made the right decision as he was engulfed, passing the ball back to a wide-open Green at the top of the perimeter. Green caught the somewhat errant pass and still had more time than an NBA sharpshooter should ever need for an easy 3-pointer.
Green’s shot fell well short, but the Lakers got a second chance when Markieff Morris found an offensive rebound. What Morris did not seem to see was James left open by Butler around the wing. Instead, Morris tried to find Anthony Davis, who was being aggressively guarded by Bam Adebayo.
Here’s how that worked out:
So you’ve got one player, Green, who didn’t make the kind of shot for which the Lakers paid him $30 million to make in his sleep, and another in Morris who simply made a bad decision amid the chaos following an offensive rebound.
Social media pitchforks were soon out for both players as the game ended, including from a rather notable rapper.
For his part, James took some blame after the game for the pass, but that is at least understandable given the degree of difficulty.
“I wish he could have it again. I wish I could make a better pass. You just live with it,” @KingJames said about Danny Green’s missed 3-pointer— Marc J. Spears (@MarcJSpears) October 10, 2020
None of this is to say Green and Morris lost the game for the Lakers, though Morris’ 0 points, 3 turnovers and 4 personal fouls in 23 minutes sure didn’t help. There were dozens of other possessions during the game in which the Lakers could have improved their result, this just happened to be the most consequential one.
The Lakers’ success this playoffs has been defined by superlative efforts from James and Davis and rock-solid efforts from their role players. Alex Caruso and Kyle Kuzma have been enormous assets on defense, Rajon Rondo has been a key creator and Morris and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope have made enough shots on the perimeter to keep defenses honest.
On this possession though, the unfortunate results started rolling as soon as the ball left James’ hands.
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