March 17, 2018, 2:09 am
The Lakers lost to the Miami Heat 92-91 on Friday night, a game that Los Angeles did not deserve to win.
Los Angeles turned the ball over 20 times, shot only 42.1 percent from the field and yet still had a chance to win the game due to a solid defensive performance.
After being down 88-81 with 5:51 remaining, the Lakers used a 10-2 run to take a one-point lead with 1:23 in the game.
Goran Dragic, who was the Heat’s best player all night, hit what turned out to be a game-winning shot with 15 seconds on the clock.
The Lakers failed to score in each of their final two possessions, including a last-second effort by Isaiah Thomas which he was unable to convert. Coach Luke Walton appeared to be extremely frustrated on the play, ripping his tie off after the Lakers failed to execute his designed play. After the game, Walton explained that the play was designed to go to Julius Randle but was unsuccessful.
Thomas had a rough night, knocking down only 1-of-9 shots from the field, 0-of-2 from 3-point range and missing the final shot for the second time as a Laker. He added five points, three assists, two rebounds and three turnovers while accruing a team-worst minus-9 rating. Had he been able to muster a better performance, the Lakers might have been able to escape tonight’s game victorious.
The Lakers were led once again by Julius Randle, who tallied 25 points, 12 rebounds, two assists and plus-6 rating while shooting 9-of-17 from the field and 7-of-9 from the free throw line. He has consistently been the Lakers’ best player in the absence of Brandon Ingram and has solidified himself as a team leader and go-to option.
Brook Lopez continued his streak of solid games with 18 points, four rebounds, two assists, and two blocks while shooting 5-of-10 from the field, 4-of-6 from 3-point range and 4-of-5 from the free throw line. He was inexcusably substituted for the ice-cold Thomas for the Lakers’ final possession, a move that clearly did not succeed.
Lonzo Ball’s cold shooting streak continued as he was only able to convert 4-of-15 shots from the floor. However, in typical Ball form, he was able to contribute in many other ways adding eight rebounds, eight assists, two steals and one block.
The Lakers got back Kyle Kuzma, who had missed the last game with a sprained ankle. He was badly needed as the Lakers are still missing their only two other wings Ingram and Josh Hart. Kuzma contributed 11 points, eight rebounds, three assists, one steal and a Lakers’ game-high plus-8 rating.
On a side note, Corey Brewer, who the Lakers mistakenly released prior to the string of injuries to their wing position, finished tonight with 22 points, one rebound, three assists, six steals, one block and zero turnovers on 7-of-12 from the field and 6-of-7 from the free throw line.
The story tonight for the Lakers was their dearth of production from the bench. The entire unit had a negative game rating, led by Thomas’ minus-9. They were outscored 29-22 but it appeared worse than demonstrated by the box score as Travis Wear bailed them and the Lakers out with 11 points on 3-of-5 shooting and 3-of-3 from 3-point range. The rest of the unit was remarkably unproductive. Los Angeles badly needs to get healthy so that they can shift some of their resources back to the bench for more balanced overall production.
The Heat were led tonight by All-Star point guard Dragic, who hit the game-winner while adding 30 points, five rebounds and two assists.
Miami also got a great performance by reserve big man Kelly Olynyk, who tallied 17 points, five rebounds, three steals and two blocks. He tormented Thomas all night, blocking two of his shots and stealing the ball from him an additional time.
The Heat also got great production from James Johnson, who finished with 12 points, seven rebounds, five assists, three steals and one block.
Key Stats and Observations
-The Laker point guards combined to shoot just 5-of-24 from the field for 20.8 percent on the night.
-Miami really relied on their bench to defeat the Lakers tonight as they did not have a single starter with a positive rating for the evening. In a corresponding statistic, the Lakers did not have a single starter to accrue a negative rating.
-Los Angeles shot 32-of-76 from the field (42.1 percent) but had an advantage in that metric as they held Miami to a mere 38.3 shooting percentage on 36-of-94 from the field.
-The Lakers’ free throw shooting resurgence continued as they knocked down 18-of-22 from the line (81.8 percent) compared to the Heat’s 10-of-14 (71.4 percent).
-Los Angeles was dominant from 3-point range with 9-of-19 (47.4 percent) compared to Miami who only made 10-of-36 from 3-point range (27.8 percent).
-Miami had 14 steals on the night compared to five for the Lakers.
-The key to the game was in the turnover department where the Lakers had 20 turnovers in contrast to the Heat who only tallied 11 for the game.
The Lakers leave the friendly confines of Staples Center to head out East for a four-game road trip against Indiana, New Orleans, Memphis and Detroit.
Their first test is against the Pacers, who have surprised the league this year with a 40-29 record, leaving them in third place in the Eastern Conference.
They are led by Victor Oladipo, who is a candidate for Most Improved Player as well as a fringe candidate for MVP. On the season he is averaging 23.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 2.2 steals and 0.8 blocks.