After Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic hit a floater in the lane with just a few seconds remaining in Friday’s game, Los Angeles Lakers head coach Luke Walton knew his team just had one chance to win following his timeout, so he drew up a play for Julius Randle.
There was only one problem: The Lakers couldn’t get the ball to their bully of a fourth-year forward. “The guy defending Zo did a good job of just leaving and denying Julius. It was going to be a hand-back with him and Zo, but we couldn’t get the ball in to Zo,” Walton explained after the loss.
Instead, the ball found its way into Isaiah Thomas’ hands, and he missed a difficult, off-balance shot as time expired, sealing a 92-91 loss for the Lakers.
“Isaiah got a clean look, though. We can’t complain about that,” Walton said. “He was probably a little cold.”
Thomas himself was happy with the look he got, despite the result. “I’ve made that plenty of times; step-backs left and right,” he said. “I’m happy with the separation I got and the shot I got. It just didn’t fall.”
And even though the play was originally drawn up for him, Randle didn’t have an issue with Thomas’ shot either, given the late-game circumstances. “That’s what he does. That’s what he’s made his career off, making all the big shots. I don’t have a problem with it at all,” Randle said.
Thomas didn’t make the shot this time, and he struggled from the field overall, going 1-for-9 in the game for a team-worst plus-minus of -9. It was a far cry from the season-high 29 points Thomas had in the previous meeting with the Heat.
“They trapped me on every pick-and-roll,” he said of adjustments Miami made from the first matchup. “That’s no excuse, I’ve got to find different ways to be able to put the ball in the basket and make plays for my teammates. I put that game on me.”
But while Thomas might have been willing to take the blame for the defeat, his coach wasn’t willing to go anywhere near that far.
“(If) you get an open look for someone like I.T. at the end, you live with that,” Walton said.