For the second time during the 2022-23 season, the Los Angeles Lakers were unable to close a game out against the Philadelphia 76ers.
It was another disappointing end for the Lakers, who have made it a habit of losing close games because of poor late-game execution or bad decision-making. What makes it sting more is that LeBron James and Russell Westbrook played well enough to give the team a chance to win, with the former breaking the 38,000-point mark and the latter recording his fourth triple-double off the bench during the 2022-23 season.
The game came down to the final possession where Westbrook was able to force a miss on a Joel Embiid jumper, but after corralling the rebound, the guard dribbled down the end of the clock where he was ultimately blocked. After the game, Darvin Ham said he didn’t think about calling a timeout on the final possession because he liked the look Westbrook got.
“No, not really. Down one you got one of our best playmakers goingto the rim, one of the best finishers at the rim has the ball with [Joel] Embiid standing in front of them. I’ll take that scenario every day of the week and twice on Sunday. Just got to finish the play. That’s it. Make a harder, stronger move to the rim. That’s it. It’s as simple as that. And it just didn’t work out. But it is what it is. That’s a great ballclub over there. It sucks to lose these close games like this. You have the opportunity to beat some really good ballclubs in Dallas and Philly tonight.
“But my hat’s off to them. They stayed resilient. They got going. James [Harden] got going a little bit there, [Tyrese] Maxey his drives, putting his head down, getting to the basket. Embiid, the tough shot-maker that he is. But we were right there. So as disappointed as I am, I’m not discouraged. We just got to be better. We just got to be better at finishing.”
Ham added that he was also comfortable with Westbrook handling the ball in that situation even though James didn’t get a touch.
“Just being down on one point and the ball is in Russell Westbrook’s hand, I’m comfortable with that,” Ham said. “I don’t know how much I can reiterate that. If that was Bron, it would be the same thing. And we don’t want to bring an extra body over. If it’s Bron handling it, it was Dennis [Schroder] handling it, but we got cross-matched with Embiid in front of us. Again, we just got to finish the play. That’s it. I don’t know. If I call a timeout and I draw up something maybe they make substitutions, maybe they scheme a little bit better or they blitz us right at the point of attack. It’s so many different scenarios. But at the end of the day, again, as I said, it’s disappointing that we lost, and it’s disappointing that we couldn’t close the game out. But make no mistake about it. Down one, with the ball in Russ’s hands with Embiid standing in front of them, I have confidence in my player, and that’s not going to change. We just got to make a better play.”
It’s not unusual for coaches to let their players go without calling a timeout in a one-possession game, though it’s questionable to say the least that Ham would trust Westbrook to go one-on-one with Embiid. Embiid’s one of the best defenders in the league and without a credible jump shot he was able to sag off Westbrook and dare him to finish at the rim.
Another tactical blunder from Ham in the closing moments of a game has fans understandably frustrated, but no matter the explanation, the fact of the matter is the Lakers lost yet another winnable game. While the Western Conference remains close throughout, Los Angeles needs to be better going forward or else they risk missing out on the playoffs for a second consecutive season.
LeBron James credits Jason Kidd for teaching him patience
James was understandably upset after losing to the 76ers, quickly walking off the floor as soon as the final horn sounded. The superstar has remained even-keeled throughout the season, but he has clearly been frustrated in recent weeks.
While most players would have said more by now, James has shown restraint and he credits his patience to Jason Kidd.
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