Lakers

Lakers’ Defense Must Improve to Avoid Heat Comeback

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On Friday night, the Heat became the first team to lose a Finals game despite shooting 50% from the floor, 40% from three and 90% from the line. They did this without two of their star players, Goran Dragic and Bam Adebayo. Miami also poured in 114 points in Game 2 including a 39-point third quarter after being held to 98 points in Game 1.

This is the result of two things: Miami’s talent and depth and the Lakers’ horrendous defense.

In addition to the Heat’s hot shooting (pun intended), LA surrendered 46 points in the paint and allowed Miami to attempt 34 free throws while only attempting 17 itself.

Jae Crowder had an uncontested dunk on a defensive debacle at the 6:26 mark in the first quarter. Kelly Olynyk dropped 24 points and nine rebounds off the bench. The Lakers failed to communicate on rotations throughout the game such as on the play, featured below, in the second frame. Simple penetration by Jimmy Butler sparks ball movement for the Heat. Four passes including a cut by Butler back into the lane results in a wide-open Kendrick Nunn corner three.

LeBron James, who finished with 33 points, nine rebounds and nine assists, reflected on the Lakers’ lack of defense after the win.

“Myself, Coach and AD were not happy with our defensive presence tonight,” James said. “We know we can be a lot better and we’re just, myself and AD, we’re not satisfied with just the win. We want to be great. We want to be great, as close to 48 minutes as possible.”

Winning the game was great, but LA’s ability to get stops, or lack there of, wasn’t.

Communicate

In the aforementioned 39-point third quarter, Miami went 12 of 18 from the floor, 4 of 5 from beyond the arc and 11 of 11 from the charity stripe. The Lakers didn’t dwindle their 14-point halftime lead by much, as they had 35 points in the period themselves.

But still, that’s not the championship level defense we’re used to seeing from this Laker group.

Anthony Davis, the team’s best defender and a 2020 First-Team All-Defense member, touched on the Heat’s hot shooting.

“In the third quarter they had a ton of open layups and open threes, and they made us pay,” he said. “They put a lot of pressure on the defense. For us, we have to do a better job communicating on the defensive end and being in coverage. Talking in coverage and making sure guys know what we’re in.”

Miami’s offensive outburst slightly shadowed Davis’ 15-point eruption in the frame.

It was all bad defensively for the Lakers, however. They limited the Heat to just six offensive rebounds, two fast-break points and were plus-11 on the boards.

James also had a memorable play in which he rose up to block a Butler layup attempt that ended up becoming a steal because he forced Butler to change his mind mid-air.

Game 3 Outlook

Stopping Miami’s rim attacks and ball movement will be crucial to the Lakers taking a dominant 3-0 lead in the Finals. That will become much more difficult if center Bam Adebayo returns to the court Sunday. His status is currently up in the air.

But whether Adebayo plays or not, they keys to another win will be what Davis alluded to: communicating and being in coverage. Coverage meaning being in the right place at the right time on the court.

Game 3 could end up being the closest and most competitive Finals outing of the series. And if the Lakers come out on top, it very well will be.

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About Sandeep Chandok

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