It felt as if the Los Angeles Lakers were set to get their first win of the season on Sunday afternoon. Things would crumble down the stretch, however, and many eyes were on a crucial decision made by Russell Westbrook late.
With the Lakers lead down to just one, Westbrook pushed forward a shot a quick pull-up jumper that rimmed off with 27 seconds remaining and 18 still on the shot clock. Considering Westbrook was just 4-of-15 from the field, many wondered why head coach Darvin Ham chose to re-insert the point guard into the game in the fourth.
“I felt like that was, in my gut, that the right thing to do and we were able to get good looks,” Ham said following a crushing two-point loss to the Portland Trail Blazers. When asked whether he felt he would have to speak to Westbrook after the game had he left him on the bench, Ham dismissed that notion.
“From Day 1 I said I’m gonna do whatever I need to do to make this a success,” the Lakers coach noted. “From practice, to individual workouts, shootaround, film, rotations, lineups. We don’t have time for feelings, for people to be in their feelings. We’re trying to turn this thing around. Some tough losses, but I’d be much more concerned if I was sitting here and we just had an array of blowouts, just getting totally ran off the floor.”
The decision to bring Westbrook back in over Austin Reaves, who had been solid all night with his shooting, defense and decision making was a questionable one to say the least and it was that last shot that made many question everything. But the Lakers head coach did not question Westbrook taking the shot, but rather the one he chose to take.
“Absolutely, I wish, I just wish he would’ve attacked the rim directly. That’s the one shot that teams want you to take and want to give up. Long twos, contested twos, what have you and his ability to explode and get to the basket still being at a high level, I wish he would’ve done that, especially with [Jusuf] Nurkic standing there with five fouls.
“So again, we’ll get better from it. We’ll watch it on film. And I don’t mind the two-for-one at all. Players sometimes flow is better than me running over there trying to call a timeout and draw up a play. Now they can put the pieces in that they want. They being Portland, and go out come out with a more formidable defensive lineup. So sometimes we want the players to do things and flow. Two-for-one is definitely something that we seek to do early in the game or at the end of the game, but just you have to know which type of shot you’re looking for. Something at the rim or collapsing people to the rim and kicking it out would have been my preference, but again, we got 79 left, so we’ll figure it.”
Westbrook finished with 10 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists with zero turnovers, but his failures to convert both at the rim and from the outside severely hurt the Lakers as did the team’s overall failures to hit outside shots yet again.
But it is the head coach’s job to put the right players in at the right time. Ham believes he did that, but if these results continue to remain the same, Ham might need to look at some different options down the stretch.
Lakers’ LeBron James ties Karl Malone for most career 20-point games
Despite the Lakers loss, superstar LeBron James had another stellar statistical performance with 31 points, 8 rebounds and 8 assists. With his scoring total he made history, tying Karl Malone for the most 20-point performances in NBA history with 1,134.
LeBron may not be the most skilled scorer ever, but his consistency is bar none and matching this mark is more proof of that.
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