Lakers Don’t Play Defense, Lose to the Heat by 7


Jan 23, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; Los Angeles Lakers point guard Kendall Marshall (12) is pressured by Miami Heat point guard Norris Cole (30) during the first half at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Not that it is breaking news but the Miami Heat without Dwayne Wade are still a potent team, they scored 109 points against the Lakers. This too is not breaking news: the Lakers defense is horrible, they gave up 109 points to the Heat. Early in the first quarter Lebron James found unguarded shooters everywhere on the floor, at the rim, in the paint, on the three point line. The Lakers struggled on their end of the floor to make shots which fueled Miami’s offense. Miami made 7 out of their first 9 shots to no one‘s surprise, at least not those who have watched the Lakers play the past six weeks. The Lakers looked confused on defense, extremely slow and not particularly competitive or interested. The Heat on defense doubled Pau Gasol and forced Ryan Kelly to make plays. He made one of his first five shots and for the most part looked as if he had stage fright. The Heat had a nine point lead with four minutes left in the first quarter that felt like a twenty point lead. Nick Young entered and hit a three cutting the lead to six. But even then there was the sense that the Miami Heat were playing a different game than the Lakers. The Lakers take threes. The Heat drive to the rim. Things were going so well for Miami there was a Greg Oden sighting which brought on a comical moment. Robert Sacre tried to wrap Oden up and the visual of him on Oden was like Oden flinging off a toothpick. But the Lakers kept competing and Jodie Meeks hit two free throws with a minute left in the quarter. The Lakers were down by six. A three point play by Manny Harris and a Jordan Hill put back had the Lakers trailing by three going into the second quarter, 30-27.

A 3 point lead quickly turned into a 10 point lead- this is the Lakers way of doing things. They continued to struggle with their shots as the Miami defenders contested shooters. Miami did not suffer the same problem, their shooters were wide open. Greg Oden made two jump hooks over Sacre. Chalmers had a three. Michael Beasley had a dunk. The Lakers were outscored in the early part of the quarter, 11-2. Uh-oh. The Heat were a lesson in how to play defense, how to contest shots, rotate, guard your man, stop penetration. They took Nick Young out of the offense with their quickness and rotations, turning him into a passer and the rest of the team was not good enough offensively. Once again Chris Kaman was not part of the rotation. Why? His post play could have created opportunities offensively. As it was the Lakers continued to miss shots, Miami continued to drive to the rim and by half time there was not much more to say about this game except we knew this would happen. Miami led by 11.

The third quarter only proved D’Antoni’s small ball and Spoelstra’s small ball do not belong in the same universe. First you have to have players that can actually shoot. And players who can contest shots. The quarter opened as all Lakers third quarters do- inept offense, zero defense. The Lakers were down by 16. They made a comeback with their threes but their defense was miserable. Miami is good but when you give them open shots they appear brilliant. Games have a rhythm to them and this one never suggested the Heat were in any kind of trouble even as the lead went to 11 again. Then it was back up to 15 again. Oddly, Miami was playing harder. They were hustling for loose balls, they were all over the court with their suffocating defense. The Lakers were going through the motions. But the Lakers never say never. They continued to hang in there and hustle. Pau made shots. Nick Young had a dunk. Jordan Hill had a couple of put backs. Robert Sacre hit a 10-footer and the lead going into the fourth quarter was 10.

In the 4th and with Lebron on the bench the Lakers came out hustling and fighting. Pau made an early entrance into the quarter and made his presence felt. He wasn’t the only one. Nick, saving a ball, flew out of bounds to maintain the possession. The Lakers hustled on rebounds. The lead was five when Miami took a timeout with 9 minutes left. But once again their defense let them down, they could not get consecutive stops and their scoring was hit or miss, mostly miss. But Jodie hit a long 3 to bring the Lakers to within 7. Pau continued his excellence. He had 22 points and 11 rebounds but he was barely able to guard Chris Bosh who was terrific, making 15-22 shots. Lebron James and Ray Allen hit uncontested shots. And Jodie hit another long bomb to cut the lead to 4 with three minutes left. But the only way to describe the Lakers defense is…there is no way to describe their defense. On a switch Jodie Meeks was on Lebron. 3 pointer for Lebron. Jordan Hill ran out at Bosh, Bosh stepped in. 2 points for Bosh. Kendall Marshall missed a free throw on an and 1. Nick missed a mid range. More points for the Heat. The excuses when the Lakers lose revolve around the multiple lineups but Jodie, Nick, Pau and Jordan Hill have played together all year. By now they should understand rotations and contesting shots. It is not to say the Lakers would have led at any point in the game which they did not but a close game in the 4th could have been competitive with a minute left. They allowed the worst rebounding team in the league to outrebound them by 13. Miami shot 58%, 40% from three. If only the Lakers had any kind of defensive pride.

They said this:

Mike D’Antoni, (16-27): “Our guys played real hard. They tightened up. Things have to go perfect to beat them (Heat) and we couldn’t. Nick has to have a big night to win. He had a good night but he had to have a special night to win. Our problem is defense. We’ll battle tomorrow.”

Nick Young, (19 points) : “We came out a little hesitant. Can’t be scared of the name. Can’t be scared of the rings. We were playing against the champs, any mistake and Lebron will pick you apart.”

Kendall Marshall (11 assists): “We started to get stops. We’re learning. We’re getting better at it. We played well this entire road trip.”

Pau Gasol (22 points): “They spread the floor. We’re hustling. We don’t have great defensive individuals. We have to be great at communicating. Let’s see if we get better during the rest of the trip. We need to scramble. We have to make sure we hold each other accountable.”