In the wake of the Lakers blowing Tuesday’s contest against the Celtics, there was plenty of regret and second-guessing. Anthony Davis rued on his missed layups that could have potentially sealed the game afterward while Darvin Ham had something else he admitted fault on.
In the closing seconds of regulation following Jayson Tatum’s game-tying jumper, Ham elected not to use the final timeout that he had. The result was a contested, low-percentage shot from LeBron James that never looked like it had a chance to go in. It was a moment that, in hindsight, Ham would like to have back.
“Just strategically trying to see how we can wisely use our timeouts and give them breaks that way,” Ham said on how he managed his timeouts in the fourth quarter. “It’s hard because you don’t want to – it’s twofold because these guys on the court, I mentioned it after the Detroit game, you have guys that are in a good rhythm together so you don’t want to disrupt that and on that flip side of that, you don’t want to put a player at risk because they’ve been sitting down over there on the bench for so long.
“The intensity and speed of the game is at such a level, it’s very easy to get hurt in a situation like that. Just trying to manage the timeouts. I could have done a better job in certain instances of using my timeouts quicker. That falls on me. We got to get better in that regard.”
As Ham notes, the other aspect is that the Lakers played the exact same five-man lineup for the entire 12-minute fourth quarter. While it was a lineup that had a ton of success, finishing with a net rating of +21 in the final frame. But by the final minutes and seconds, the quintet of LeBron, Anthony Davis, Troy Brown Jr., Austin Reaves and Russell Westbrook looked thoroughly gassed.
But Ham relied on his veterans to make a play late, something they certainly did not do.
“Guys played in the league a long time – Bron, AD – and if you miss a shot, you live with it,” Westbrook said. “We did a good job of getting the shot we wanted and missed it.”
It’s hard to call a 27’ pull-up 3-pointer that had no previous action to it “the shot we wanted” but that isn’t a new issue for the Lakers. This team has routinely struggled to make plays late in games, particularly in end-of-game scenarios.
To Ham’s credit, he was using timeouts fairly liberally throughout the quarter. Three of his timeouts came in the fourth period as he did try to stem a late run from the Celtics. But if there was a stretch that he may look back and wish he had called an extra timeout, it could be the 10-4 run by Boston from the 3:38 to the 48-second mark that closed an 8-point lead down to two points.
In that span, the Lakers went 2-6 from the field and looked lost offensively. Ham trusted his veterans to figure it out and, unfortunately, that moment never came.
It’s a learning moment for Ham and the Lakers, but one that didn’t feel like it needed to come in a loss. All of it just makes the final result all the more frustrating.