Los Angeles Lakers head coach Luke Walton and LeBron James each stressed minimizing miscues and turnovers as keys to upsetting the Milwaukee Bucks, and when the dust finally settled at Staples Center, that was precisely what dictated the outcome.
Having played a clean game for much of the night, the Lakers saw a three-point deficit double in the blink of an eye. After falling behind 121-118, L.A. called a timeout. Walton sent his team back onto the court with a play that would allow James to get the ball and attack.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was tasked with inbounding the ball, which he was unable to do as the Bucks double-teamed James. Caldwell-Pope’s floating pass was tipped away and led to a Malcolm Brogdon 3-pointer.
“I’ll take that responsibility,” Walton said the costly turnover. “We called a timeout to get a play to LeBron coming downhill. I took for granted that we’d get the ball inbounds. That’s on me.
“We have an extra timeout, we’ve got to take it. We can’t afford to turn that ball over right there. But they came up in the press, and we didn’t get open and at that point we probably should have just called that last timeout. I know guys always want to save them, but it was a costly play in the game.”
The sequence capped off what was a rough night for Caldwell-Pope. He missed a 3-pointer in the fourth quarter and finished a game-worst minus-22 in 23 minutes off the bench. While Walton put the turnover on his shoulders, Caldwell-Pope assumed blame himself.
“I was looking for someone to get open,” he said. “I could’ve run the baseline but I didn’t. I didn’t think B.I. was open enough to throw the ball, and there was like four seconds (passed) at that time, so I just tried to throw it up top to get it to LeBron.”
The Lakers finished with just nine turnovers in the game, though three came in the fourth quarter and each was with less than three minutes remaining.
“Turnovers had gotten a lot better the last two games,” Walton said. “Especially down the stretch of a game we’ve got to take care of the ball. We’ll get better at it.”
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