After a massive overtime win over the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday, the Los Angeles Lakers had a chance to end the series in five games on the road on Wednesday. Instead, the Laker ultimately fell to the Grizzlies by a final score of 116-99.
Losing Game 5 with a 3-1 lead is not the end of the world as the Lakers are still in control with a 3-2 series lead and the next game being played in Los Angeles. That does not change the fact that Game 5 was concerning and showed some potential warning signs that could hurt LA. If not in this series, in a future series.
The biggest warning sign has to do with the team’s head coach. Darvin Ham turned in a disasterclass in LA’s Game 5 loss, proving an unfortunate reality that Lakers fans were trying to overlook when the playoffs began.
Darvin Ham proved he is the Lakers’ weakest link
This is not to say that Ham does not add any value to the Lakers. As a former player, Ham naturally is respected by the players and that is worth something. This also is not to say that Ham is never going to figure it out as he definitely could.
However, Ham is very obviously still learning on the job and that is the last thing you want from a head coach of a team that has legitimate championship aspirations. Nothing is guaranteed but the Lakers probably don’t lose this game if they have Erik Spoelstra as their head coach.
The reason why Los Angeles lost this game was the massive 19-2 run that the Grizzlies put together at the end of the third quarter. While that happened, Ham sat their on the sideline with his hands in his pockets and watched the momentum get sucked away from his team.
Los Angeles fought back from a big deficit to cut it to two right before that 19-2 run by the Grizzlies. Instead of having awareness and calling a timeout, Ham instead let the massacre happen.
And let’s not overlook some of the extremely flawed rotation decisions that Ham has made, which has been a problem all season. Rui Hachimura has been the best role player in this entire series for either team. He played just five minutes in the first half.
Sure, he picked up three fouls early but he did not end up committing another foul the rest of the game. There is a difference between someone like Hachimura having three fouls and someone like Anthony Davis having three fouls.
Then Ham decided to leave the starters in late in the game when it was completely out of reach. Los Angeles ended up escaping without any injuries but it was not without a scary fall from Anthony Davis where it looked like he fractured his tailbone. If that would have been serious then it would have been a fireable offense on the spot.
It is not Ham’s fault that the bench got cold and contributed absolutely nothing (nine total bench points outside of Hachimura). But that does not change the fact that he did not put his team in the best position to win and he is the weakest link that might hold the franchise back.