Lakers/Heat: Heat Forces Lakers to Open Window of Opportunity

Phillip Barnett —  March 10, 2011

They say it’s the contrasting styles that make the fight, and tonight we were blessed with a hell of a battle as the Heat outlasted the Lakers in a 94-88 victory in South Beach. The Heat, with their strong perimeter play were able to beat the Lakers in their own game — with their strong inside play and defense — were able to simultaneously end two of the most talked about streaks in recent NBA news.

After the Lakers last loss (to the Cavs, the obvious low point of their season, Darius wrote:

The Lakers got outworked by a team hell bent on revenge. The Cavs played hard, they played smart, and they took advantage of every opening the Lakers gave them.

Tonight, this game gave off a similar feel. The Lakers turned the ball over, the Heat turned them into layups. The Lakers gave up offensive rebounds, the Heat turned them into second chance points. The Lakers sagged off of shooters, the Heat turned them into 3-point opportunities. The Lakers missed easy buckets around the rim, the Heat turned them into defensive stops. Tonight, unlike their last loss to the Cavs, wasn’t about a lack of effort on either side of the ball, it was about the Heat taking advantage of the Lakers small lapses in their game plan and mental toughness. From Mario Chalmers hitting wide open threes to Mike Miller grabbing offensive rebounds to guards getting ripped on the perimeter, the Lakers continued to give the Heat small windows of opportunity to make plays. And with a game that remained as close as this one did, those miniscule windows of opportunity become increasingly more crucial as every second ticks off the clock.

Kobe was able to get going early, matching all eight of the Heat’s first eight points — all of which came off of Lakers turnovers. He got to the free throw line, hit his first three jumpers, including a contested three-pointer, looking as if he was going to have a nice rhythm for the game. While Kobe began to heat up, Miami was getting what they hadn’t got from their role players during their five-game losing streak — production. Mario Chalmers and Mike Miller hit four three-pointers in the first quarter, and along with Mike Bibby, shot 7-for-12 for the game.

In fact, the Heat bench was one of their major issues coming into tonight’s game, scoring a combined 14 points in the Heat’s last two losses. Tonight, that bench combined for 18 points, completely out-playing the Odom-Barnes-Blake-Brown foursome. Mike Miller contributed 12 points, on 4-for-6 shooting with three offensive rebounds (seven overall). Mike Bibby came off the bench and hit a couple of big threes and Zydrunas Ilgauskas had a couple of offensive rebounds that hurt the Lakers. The Lakers bench struggled for the majority of the night, shooting four-for-17 with nine rebounds and only one forced turnover. Lamar Odom wasn’t horrible, with all four of the Lakers’ field goals, but missed a few easy shots around the rim and gave up some rebounds that led to Heat second chance points from not boxing out.

The second half was about what the starting unit did or didn’t do. Going into the half, the Lakers had given up 55 points, putting the Heat at a much higher pace than any of the Lakers opponents during their eight-game winning streak. Defensively, the Lakers didn’t look themselves, but in the third quarter, the defense turned things up a bit, starting with Andrew Bynum. He made himself big in the paint, altering shots and cleaning up the glass. ‘Drew finished the third quarter with four points and seven rebounds after just one rebound in the whole first half. With ‘Drew in the middle altering shots and forcing the Heat slashers to take jumpers instead of attacking the rim, the Heat finished the quarter with only 13 points and the Lakers, at least on that end of the floor, like the team that hadn’t given up more than 87 points in five straight games.

The fourth quarter, things changed. Mike Bibby hit his two three pointers — one to tie the game, and the second time to give the Heat a three-point lead. With about 5:30 left to play, the Heat called a timeout, and came out of the timeout and executed down the stretch like they hadn’t in recent games. Dwyane Wade started attacking the rim, getting two straight layups. One possession later, Chris Bosh got to the rim for the Heat’s third straight layup. All of a sudden, the Lakers couldn’t get stops. On the Heat’s only missed shot after Chris Bosh’s layup, Wade grabbed the offensive rebound and got a short jumper out of it. The Lakers, on the other hand, couldn’t execute down the stretch. Kobe had a crucial turnover with about 1:30 left to play, the Lakers got three offensive rebounds after missed shots, and couldn’t convert on any of them. To put it in terms easy to understand, the Heat held the Lakers to three points in the last 3:20 of the game. All of Miami’s problems that kept them from winning a few of the games during their five game winning streak finally came together for them. They got stops, they got easy shots around the rim, and they got the win.

Tonight’s game definitely had a playoff atmosphere to it. Of course, this is one that we would have liked for the Lakers to bring home — and for the majority of the game, it felt as if the Lakers were going to take over at any point. It just never happened. The Lakers, for the most part, played hard. They just came across a very good team that was desperate for a win. Again, tonight’s game came down to the Lakers giving small opportunities to put points on the board throughout the game, and those opportunities built up into a six-point lead after 48-minutes of basketball. This isn’t a game that the Lakers can dwell on for too long, as they have the Dallas Mavericks (who are up on the Knicks by 12 as I type) in Dallas on Saturday and a game against Orlando on Monday. It’s going to be key for them to have a short memory and continue to improve as this is a team playing for playoff positioning, not to prove something in each individual game. For a team with championship aspirations, games like this are only a minor dent in a season that really won’t be summed up until their last game is played.

Phillip Barnett

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29 responses to Lakers/Heat: Heat Forces Lakers to Open Window of Opportunity

  1. This was an entertaining game, but a tough loss to swallow. As Phillip’s aricle points to, it was the small mistakes we made that led to more scoring opportunities by the Heat. It is still a “L” but one that showed our team can remain in just about any game regardless of the situation. Remember that we didn’t beat LeBron’s Cavs in both games last year and that meant absolutely nothing in the playoffs. Why? Because he quit on his team (Quitness). Mentally, the Heat stepped up tonight. I don’t believe they are strong enough to do that 4 times against the Celtics, Bulls or Magic for that matter. Our Lakers will be just fine. Saturday night awaits and I’m sure we’ll be ready for the Mavs. Tough loss, but the train is still moving down the track in the right direction. One recommendation – involve the bigs more at the end. Pau had a close miss, but he and Drew were killing them for a 3-4 minute stretch. Oh, well. Go Lakers!

  2. This loss is not a big deal or even surprising at all. However, if the Lakers lose on saturday to the Mavs, you got to wonder if the Lakers were really as good as that 8 game win streak. The Mavs are also a better team than the Spurs that will give the Lakers more fits. The Lakers should be looking to take their frustration out on the Mavs.

  3. Tonight’s game had a scripted feel to it. Games like this are when I am tempted to believe that the NBA, at least some games, could be rigged.

    Not by the refs, mind you, but by the collective interest of the players, owners and the league that needs attention. No better way to resuscitate the heat than to have them beat the Lakers, and the Lakers obliged.

    I mean, I had even written a post (in Korean, so I won’t share it here ;) ) about how we were going to lose this game…

    … anyway, it won’t be that often that we get outrebounded as badly as we did tonight. Considering that we were still within striking range despite the boards, I don’t see much to worry about…

  4. I wonder what is the stat on close games played by lakers this year? It seems that in crunch time the team stops playing their offense and turn their eyes on Kobe and have him play the iso-hero mode. The loss is a tough one to swallow, but what worries me is our teams crunch time plays. Instead of going inside-out the lakers ends up hoisting contested jumpers during crunch time. I hope they can correct this habit of letting kobe take over on close games.

  5. I wonder if there’s going to be an episode of Khloe and Lamar’s reality show airing in a couple months that was shot late at night and into the morning on March 9th and 10th. Phil doesn’t normally sit LO for the last nine minutes of the game, but LO didn’t consistently bring it tonight, especially on the glass.

  6. @Spartacus – I would so love to see the coaching staff draw up some crunch-time plays that feature Kobe running around a couple picks and catching the ball on the curl for an easy jumper.

  7. thisisweaksauce March 10, 2011 at 10:10 pm

    Dude (#6),

    SERIOUSLY. It’s not that I doubt Kobe, but that doing that is just better basketball, that’s all. Their crunch time plays are beginning to worry. Instead of Kobe iso, why not just get it to him on some off the ball action?

  8. #4, I don’t think the Lakers have faired well in close games this year. And it is not the scoring, I mean Kobe will do his thing and he either pulls us through or he don’t. It is the inability to get key stops. Too many layups giving up at the end of tonights game. If the Heat were hitting tough outside shots I could understand, but they got to the basket way too much. That really worries me about this Laker team, because it has happened a lot this season in crunch time where their defense is just aweful.

  9. Well it seems as if Kobe knew he blew it tonight. Kevin Ding stating not only did Kobe practice his shooting for an hour after the game, he then hit the weight room.

    Maybe Blake should have joined him.

  10. re crunch time offense. In the past couple years, we’ve basically relied on a combination of Kobe isos and Kobe/Pau P&R as our main sets down the stretch. And for the most part, things have worked out very well. Sure there would be the occasional drawn up play w/ some off ball screening (thinking game winner against Kings), but I think we can all agree that these two sets have been our bread and butter. What I am seeing this year, strictly eye test, are a couple of things.

    In Isos: We’ve all had to face it one way or another. Kobe has lost explosiveness in the past couple years. As he gets older, his younger opponents are mostly getting better and more comfortable with guarding him. In late game iso sets, he has become primarily a jump shooter, because of a number of things (great trust in his jumper, ball handling issues from the fingers, tired legs, not getting calls on drives). Long twos are not very efficient, and it’s hard to rest a game’s outcome on them – even if it is Kobe taking the shots. Now I’ll never question his ability to knock down the big shots, but if the defender doesn’t believe he will take it to the rack, that makes contests of his jumper that much easier and more impactful, further reducing his chances of making the shot.

    P&R w/ Pau and Kobe: This is the one I’ve really seen defenses focus on stopping this year. Every team down the stretch seems intent on trapping Kobe on all screens. Get the ball out of his hands is the idea. With his penetrating abilities more limited than in the past (by his standard), these aggressive traps often have him back pedaling and basically ruin any momentum the play is developing. Frequently, Kobe will be out closer to halfcourt by the end of the trap than he is to the lane. Again, very inefficient at the end of a game. The play basically becomes broken.

    So now is where the staff needs to get creative down the stretch. One thing I did like tonight was the backdoor play Kobe almost completed at the end (before Wade got away w/ fouling him). As a couple of people mentioned above, off ball movement to free up Kobe is what we need. By getting him a release from his man, that will cause the defense to often overcompensate, freeing up other players and causing the defense to scatter. Getting the defense out of position is the easiest way for open shots and dribble penetration. But in an iso set, the defense knows exactly what’s coming. In addition, some off ball action could at the very least, lead to situations where Kobe pins his man on the low block for an easy entry pass. I think Kobe is his most deadly in the post at this stage of his career. Most teams would immediately double if he gets the ball on the block, which would almost always lead to wide open jumpshots for teammates. Even if it is a soft double, Kobe has the ability to hit the fadeaway from 15 feet, and I’m okay with that. He’s very comfortable with passing out of the low block, and I trust Fisher and Artest to knock down an open three late. And if they don’t? I can live with that too. What I can’t live with are the long, fadeaway jumpers that are really miracle shots. Kobe may practice his jumper more than anyone, but he doesn’t practice “that” jumper (whichever one he’s taking at full speed with a hand in his face) enough for it to be a high % shot. I think the key is finding ways to get Kobe the ball closer to the hoop, and the only way we can achieve that is with him working off the ball to get good releases from his man. I don’t think we should go away from Kobe by any means at the end of games, but I know we can improve on where and when he gets the ball in halfcourt sets.

  11. • Tied game, Wade with the ball, Kobe at the top of the key. LeBron with the moving screen, knocking Kobe over/Kobe having to dive away from Wade to prevent the “foul”. No call, Miami scores.

    • Other end, our shot still on the rim, Ilgauskas bats it away. No goaltending, Miami ball.

    • Next possession, Kobe receives a pass, Wade grabs and rips Kobe’s arm away from the ball. Replays clearly show it. No foul called. Also, Miami ball.

    • Later, LeBron runs to the top of the arc and trips over Artest’s shoe (Ron isn’t even looking). Call? Lakers foul, of course.

    You can point to the inability to close out the game in the 3rd quarter after the 9-0 or the point discrepancy of the 4th, and how the game shouldn’t have been that close at the end anyway. All true. But no matter how good your team is, sometimes games come down to the wire like this, and it’s frustrating to see it lost due to awful refereeing. I’d prefer an overtime loss that this.

    In all, the Heat fans got what they wanted: Miami ending their losing streak at the expense of breaking the Laker’s winning streak, Kobe missing his hero shots, and LeBron icing it with free throws. They can queue this tape up and re-watch it again to feel good about themselves in June while the Lakers/Celtics Finals are going on.

    A stupid, irresponsible loss.

  12. Missed the game, had an important meeting with my bed.

    But the +/- numbers jump out at me.

    The Lakers starters have an average of +2,4, while Heat starters have an average of -3.

    Obviously the opposite must be true for the bench, and here the numbers are an average of -10,5 for the Lakers bench, and a +9 for the Heat bench (even when including J.Anthony and his 4 minutes).

    It is good to know that the Lakers’ starters can handle the Heats’ starters, since their the battle of the bench’s 9 out of 10 times ought to be a win for LA… that is, if the Lakers’ bench return to just somewhat near the level we had come to expect from them earlier in the year. Which I think they will; Odom has had such a high level all season, and Barnes still does not seem to have found his rythm, but he should come around with a little more time.

  13. Adam, Kobe usually doesn’t complain about calls in post game interviews. I wish TNT would have shown a different angle. It was clear Wade didn’t block it, but was Kobe trying to oversell a call?

    Not sure either way, hard to imagine Kobe shooting the ball 2 feet short in crunch time without being blocked.

    Perhaps Wade or LBJ would have got the call?

  14. I have a queasy feeling about referees’ usual disrespect towards a certain Laker player.Other than that I bet it was a very good game.

  15. Perfect recap, Phillip. Just about sums up the entire game.

    We always criticize Blake on offense, but last night his defense on Bibby was stankawful. After Bibby hit a 3, I watched Blake run away from Bibby to rotate to the fossil of Juwan Howard, and then have no time to get back while Bibby hit another 3.

    Also credit to Fish. We saw more of his INTANGIBLES! on display. Last night I saw some great help defense from Fish. He helped enough to deter the driver, but stayed close enough to his man to jump into the passing lane. Perfect instincts.

    Tej – The entire bench should have joined him. They need to learn from Kobe’s personal accountability.

  16. It was difficult for me to understand how there were wide open 3-point shot available for Miami yet they still got offensive rebounds. I understand long shots make for long rebounds but Mike Miller and Z-Butt were getting offensive rebounds directly underneath the rim.

    I would say untimely turnovers and lack of inside dominance doomed the Lakers this game. It wasn’t too bad though – Ron did as good a job on Lebron as I’ve seen. Also, despite the fact our bigs didn’t show up, Miami had “role players” step up big & we didn’t get some calls down the stretch, we still had a chance to win it in the end.

  17. Everyone pretty much summed it up. 1st half, the Heat were able to stay in the game and take the lead because of offensive rebounds. Out bigs just don’t box out. Some games it hurts us and it did in this game.

    Then in the 3rd quarter we had a chance to go up and really push the lead but kept making dumb passes.

    And besides Odom, our bench gave us nothing. Blake – nothing. Matt Barnes – 3 out of 4 free throws. Shannon Brown – Missed 2 open threes and an easy layup that he should have dunked.

    And how does Ron Artest continue to miss these layups?

    The game was frustrating, but I actually thought even before this game that the Dallas game is a bigger game for us.

  18. Mike Miller and Chalmers cut us up pretty bad. It’s inexplicable how in this day and age with advanced scouting, Shannon and Barnes did little to keep Miller off the boards when we all know he is not just a spot up shooter, but a SF who is one of the better rebounders.

    I’m a little disappointed that Pau/Bynum didn’t get as many touches at the end of the game, especially since Kobe was being doubled high up top. Whether it’s a lack of assertiveness from our bigs, or Kobe gunning, Pau/Bynum didn’t get many looks.

    The stars were aligned for a loss yesterday so I’m not taking this one too hard. Bosh was due for his 1 for every 15 games appearance, and we know how refs feel about Wade (see 2006 NBA Finals when he single handedly shot more free throws than the entire Mavs team) and Lebron (breathe on him, that’s a foul). Let’s move on. We have the Mavs to think about now.

  19. As Everclear mentioned the crunch time plays were so bizarre, I think that if it played out like that 10 times the Lakers would win 8 due to calls/luck going the other way.

    What was more worrying in my opinion was Kobe’s defence on Wade in the 4th quarter. He was playing very aggressively and allowing him to blow by him and get into the lane when allowing Wade to shoot long jumpers would seem like the logical thing to do. In fairness the help defence was fairly poor but it still seems like a small cause for concern.

    All in all not a bad loss, looking forward to Dallas.

  20. Looks like Lebron has (rightfully) come to the decision that Wade should have the ball at the end of games. He’s just a much more dynamic scorer then Lebron is, especially on iso’s.

    On the Laker side it looks like our crunchtime offense comes down to how well Kobe hits 22 footers with someone draped all over him. Having said that if the Ron Artest’s and the Lamar Odom’s of the world are gonna miss crunch time gimmes then I see Kobe’s point.

  21. thisisweaksauce March 11, 2011 at 9:04 am

    Adam (10),

    I feel that your post is spot on. Everyone, take a look at it.

  22. I’m not too upset about this loss.

    Going into this game I knew that we were going up against a team that had lost 5 straight and were desperate for a win, whereas we had won 8 straight. We were cool and confident. Oh, and then there’s the little matter of we haven’t won more than 8 straight in years. 8 is our limit on schnitzengruben.

    I missed the first half, but when I turned on the game for the second and saw us down, I just thought, “Figures.”

    The 3rd quarter started to sway me…until that stretch at the end when our 6 point lead evaporated as we turned the ball over repeatedly in the paint. You could see the Lakers players take their foot of the gas as soon as they realized they could win the game now.

    In the end we lost a very close game on the opponent’s floor when they were desperate. I’ll take that. I have every bit of belief that we can beat these guys in a 7 game series and that we’re about to start another win streak in Dallas.

  23. 10) Good post. Kobe’s decrease in explosiveness affects him defensively, too.

  24. After this last game, I’m really not too worried about the Heat in the playoffs. Wade was really the only Heat guy who played relatively poorly. Otherwise, they had great nights from Bosh, Bibby, Miller, and Chalmers. The last three went a combined 7-12 from three. Meanwhile, the Lakers got no-shows from Odom, half of Bynum (1st half), and all 3 of the Killer B’s. So pretty much all the Heat role players had great games, while none of the Lakers role players played even halfway decently. And the Heat barely won, at home.

    There’s a good chance of that being a moot point anyway, since there’s no way that Miami team can beat a healthy Boston team in 7 games. Heck, they would probably have a ton of trouble against a healthy Chicago team.

    We’ll see how we fare against Dallas later this week to see if they’re up to par. If not, I really think our only worries will be San Antonio and Boston. And with our dominance of San Antonio last week along with Boston trading away Perkins, I’m feeling super confident as a Laker fan right now.

  25. On the bright side, Lakers kept up streak of having a half in holding a team under 40 points.

    Frustrating to see them only put up 17 points in the 3rd when they were clamping down on the Heat. It boggles me how the offense continually gets into these long slumps of bad execution. What a complete turnaround from 2008 and when Pau was first acquired. That was a free flowing offensive team that could only play good D in small stretches.

  26. The Dude Abides March 11, 2011 at 6:50 pm

    I think one factor in LeBron’s teams always playing well against us is the fact that they have nothing to lose, so they play well without any pressure. After all, they’re playing Kobe and the champs. Against weaker teams, they feel a lot more mental pressure to win, because those other teams have nothing to lose. After all, they’re playing Les Douches Trois and their teammates. Against the Lakers, two Heat players who seem to be fragile mentally (Bosh and Chalmers) always seem to bring it. And Mike Miller, who has had horrible game after horrible game this season due to a complete lack of confidence after coming back from injury, had just about his best game of the season.

    @10. Adam, great comment

  27. Hey Laker nation. Tonight’s game against Orlando should be a good one. Chat with friends during the game on watchparty. Tonight 10:30 ET or 7:30 PT on ESPN.

    http://watchparty.tv/watchparties/75389-espn-nba-basketball-orlando-magic-la-lakers