Despite leading by 11 points with 3:45 remaining in the game, LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers lost to Mario Hezonja and the New York Knicks, 124-123.
While the focus is on Hezonja blocking James’ potential game-winner, the Lakers became stagnant during that final minutes and predictable on the final possession.
After being swept by the Knicks, head coach Luke Walton revealed his conversation with James when Emmanuel Mudiay made two free throws to give them a lead. “At the free throw line I asked him. I said, ‘We’ve got the timeout left, or do you want to bring it?'” Walton began.
“At that moment it doesn’t really matter. If I draw up a play and call a timeout, the play is going to be, get the ball to LeBron at the top of the floor. Again, it never comes down to that final play. More times than not, LeBron’s going to make that game-winner.
“We were in our ‘horns-C’ play, which he’ll quarterback, and we’ve got an action strong side, action weak side. If he doesn’t like either of them, then it’s his choice to take it one-on-one and make a play. Down the stretch, pretty much every team is going to do that; especially when you have a player as good as LeBron on your team. You get him the ball and let him make those decisions.”
While the Lakers could have gotten a better shot off, Walton was ultimately comfortable with having the basketball in James’ hands.
“He’s one of the all-time great players in our league. He understands time, score and everything else. He’s earned the right to take the shots he feels comfortable with As opposed to some of the younger guys, you’ve got to draw things up, tell them what to look for, tell them where to go,” Walton assessed.
“He’s earned the right to feel that out and take the shots he feels are going to be good for him.”
For his part, James credited Hezonja for playing strong defense and making a play.