Despite a furious fourth-quarter comeback, the Los Angeles Lakers ultimately fell short on the road against the Miami Heat on Sunday night.
The Laker defense was almost non-existent in the first half as the Heat executed well and got nearly any look they wanted. Miami went up 39-25 after the first quarter and Los Angeles eventually ended up trailing by as many as 26 and 17 at halftime.
LeBron James tried to will the team back into it with his play on both ends, but there just was not enough time left to complete the comeback. Afterwards, James admitted that the first half deficit was too much to eventually overcome.
“When you give up 39 points in the first quarter, 69 at half, that’s not ingredients for us trying to win on the road vs. a very well-coached team,” James said. “And they shot the ball extremely well from the 3-point line to start the game, we didn’t close out on their shooters. So they set the tempo in the first half, we played even basketball with them in the third and in the fourth quarter we played the type of basketball we want to play but dug ourselves too much of a hole early in the game.”
The Heat, under Erik Spoelstra, are well-known for the ball movement in their offense and their style of play stressed out the Laker defense on nearly every possession. There were numerous instances of defensive lapses and James noted they suffered the consequences.
“We just had too many breakdowns. Versus a team that’s this well-coached, you can’t have multiple breakdowns throughout the course of a game, throughout the course of a possession, throughout the first half or quarter because they’ll make you pay. There’s a lot of teams in this league that times won’t make you pay for mistakes, but they are not one of them and they made us pay every time.”
There is no shame in losing to a Heat team that sits at the top of the Eastern Conference, but the slow start robbed the Lakers of a chance to pick up a quality win. Los Angeles has struggled to string together multiple wins in a row and it has hurt their efforts to climb back up in the standings.
Unfortunately for James and the Lakers, the rest of their road trip does not get easier as they are next set to play the Brooklyn Nets. The Nets will be without Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, but a James Harden-led Nets team is more than enough to dissect the Laker defense. They will be more disciplined on that end of the floor if they hope to get back on track.
James discusses difficulties of playing against Spoelstra
Also working against Los Angeles is Spoelstra’s familiarity with James, a fact that the star was well-aware of prior to the contest. He spoke on how difficult it was to prepare against a Spoelstra team, both in this game and the 2020 NBA Finals.
“I knew it was probably gonna be one of the most mentally challenging sets of games because they know me and I know them so well. Or I know Spo and Spo knows me so well and I knew that he would try to take everything away from me that I do well and I just tried to get into the mind of his on what he wanted to do to help his team win a championship and it was basically like playing chess. I just know that verse a Spo team when he has time and multiple days and hours to prep for a team and prep for an individual, he’s one of the best. So I knew I had to do that even more on my side to make sure that my guys were prepped and understood what was going on because I already knew the type of series it was gonna be.”
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