Russell Westbrook performed an excellent recreation for the Lakers on Sunday. He completed with 20 factors, 14 rebounds and 13 assists, notching his fourth triple-double off the bench, probably the most in recorded historical past. He does good issues for this Lakers crew. He won’t ever be an excellent match with LeBron James, however he does good issues.
Those good issues, sadly, not often are available crunch time, the place Westbrook is an impulsive, wild-card participant who merely can’t be counted on to reign in his bullheaded confidence and get out of his personal — and the Lakers’ — approach.
It occurred once more on Sunday when Westbrook determined to go one on one with Joel Embiid within the recreation’s remaining possession, with the Lakers trailing by one, fairly than get the ball to James. To say the possession did not work out could be an understatement. It was a catastrophe.
First, let’s give Westbrook credit score. He defended Embiid on the opposite finish, holding his floor as Embiid tried to again him all the way down to power a fadeaway from the foul line, which Embiid missed. Westbrook bought the rebound. He had performed his job. The remaining possession ought to’ve belonged to James.
LeBron may’ve been extra assertive in getting the ball from Westbrook, however he was on the opposite aspect of the court docket, and the clock was ticking. Once it was clear that Westbrook would assault, he determined to remain spaced. This is the place Darvin Ham ought to have saved Westbrook from himself and made positive the sport ended on LeBron’s watch by calling a timeout. But Ham mentioned afterward that he by no means thought of calling a timeout as a result of he appreciated the Westbrook vs. Embiid matchup.
“I’ll take that state of affairs day by day of the week and twice on Sundays,” Ham mentioned.
Absolutely not. That is a coach making an attempt to have his man’s again and maybe defend his personal. This possession was a wreck, and you may see it occurring rattling close to in gradual movement. Even if Ham initially appreciated the matchup, as soon as Westbrook fumbled the ball, there was no approach that was going to work out. Had Ham referred to as timeout at that second, with nonetheless roughly seven seconds on the clock, he may’ve designed a play to get LeBron the ball and make sure the Lakers an excellent have a look at the basket.
Coaches love “matchups” greater than they need to. Lots of knowledge suggests this, however there ought to be a intestine feeling in play right here, an intuition. Anyone who has watched Russ power motion in conditions like this knew how this might go. It was devolving in a well-known vogue. Ham had time to cease it. He did not.
To be truthful, Westbrook seems to have been fouled on the play by Embiid. Westbrook asserted as a lot after the sport when he additionally mentioned he is aware of this recreation wasn’t determined by one possession, even the final one.
Westbrook may very properly have some extent concerning the foul.
A more in-depth look.
We’ll see when the Last Two Minute Report comes out on Monday. Lakers followers have been tuning in for that so much these days. But to me, a foul name would’ve bailed out a nasty choice within the first place. This continues to be easy: Westbrook mustn’t have been allowed to regulate that possession.
Often it is a greater play in these conditions to not name timeout while you’re catching the protection in transition fairly than giving them an opportunity to set. Certainly, when the ball is already within the fingers of the participant, you’d design the play anyway. But that wasn’t the case right here. The Sixers had all 5 guys again, and the most effective participant did not have the ball. Westbrook had, on paper, I suppose, what Ham believes was an advantageous matchup, however the one factor you are taking “day by day of the week and twice on Sundays” is LeBron James over Russell Westbrook on the subject of creating offense in a game-winning possession.
This is the second time Ham has probably botched a late-game state of affairs within the final three days. On Friday, he allowed Luka Doncic to play one on one fairly than blitzing/doubling him with the Lakers up by three. Doncic, once more, fairly predictably, hit the game-tying step-back 3-pointer because the Lakers ultimately misplaced in double additional time.
“I’m kicking myself within the butt,” Ham mentioned afterward. “I would like to educate somewhat higher in that occasion. We ought to’ve blitzed [Luka]. Or not less than compelled him contained in the 3-point line.”
Not forcing the ball out of Doncic’s fingers with a double crew wasn’t Ham’s greatest mistake — or first — in that state of affairs. The Lakers ought to’ve simply fouled to start with. These coaches that allow groups try game-tying 3-pointers within the waning seconds fairly than foul apparently do not imagine in math. We prefer to say that coaches fall into two camps in dealing with up-three eventualities on the finish of video games: the foul group, and the do not foul group. That’s a euphemism. It ought to be the good group and the not-smart group.
Either approach, Ham had an opportunity to get one again for the Lakers on Sunday by not less than placing them in the most effective place to win. That place was with the ball in LeBron’s fingers. Not Westbrook’s. That does not imply LeBron would’ve hit a game-winner or discovered a teammate for a game-winner. Nobody can predict the longer term. You merely play the good odds. A timeout ought to’ve been referred to as. It wasn’t. And the Lakers misplaced. It actually is so simple as that.
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