Even without Anthony Davis and Dennis Schroder, the Los Angeles Lakers battled back from a double-digit deficit against the Miami Heat. However, they were unable to protect their own lead and suffered a 96-94 loss in the 2020 NBA Finals rematch.
The Lakers got off to a slow defensive start in the first half and fell behind by as many as 15 points. However, their second-half showing was much better as they limited the Heat to only 37 points.
Despite their cold shooting in the fourth quarter, Los Angeles had a couple of chances to either tie or take the lead. First, Wesley Matthews missed a go-ahead 3-pointer that would have given the Lakers a one-point lead.
Later, LeBron James was able to steal an inbound pass intended for Jimmy Butler but Alex Caruso missed a long two at the buzzer that would have sent the game into overtime.
The Lakers could have set themselves up better down the stretch and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope noted that the team collectively seems to rush things in the closing minutes of games.
“Down the stretch I feel like we’re just not being patient enough. We’re trying to force a lot of things with jumpers,” Caldwell-Pope said. “I feel like towards the end of the game we’re not playing Lakers basketball like we normally do.”
Caldwell-Pope seemed to break out of his slump shooting the basketball by nailing 3-of-5 from deep, but he missed a crucial three in the fourth that would have tied the game and gave the Lakers the momentum. From that point on, L.A. settled for jumpers and were unable to get over the hump.
Head coach Frank Vogel recently expressed his desire for the Lakers to shoot more 3s, and while they took 45 of them against the Heat, some came out of the flow of the offense.
Los Angeles’ offensive execution has regressed in recent weeks, which speaks to Caldwell-Pope’s comments about needing to be more patient.
The Lakers have not looked close to their peak form in recent weeks and appear to desperately need the All-Star break.
Caldwell-Pope admits 2020-21 season has been a grind
Los Angeles was dealt a bad hand as they entered the 2020-21 season with the least amount of rest. The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic also rages on, and that compounded with the lack of an offseason looks like it is finally starting to affect the Lakers.
Caldwell-Pope acknowledged that it has been a challenge to fight through those factors. “I feel great. A little fatigued here and there, but it’s all about just managing my body, being prepared, getting treatment, making sure I stay ready,” he said.
“The way the season is going and the way it went last year, it’s a lot. It’s all about just managing your body.”
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