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Anatomy of a meltdown — it wasn’t Steve Blake, Lakers blew game before that

May 17, 2012, 10:23 AM EDT

Kobe Bryant, Steve Blake, Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol AP

The Lakers were up 7 points with 2 minutes to go. And lost.

And by lost, I mean lost any real chance at the series. Do you really think the Lakers can win four of the next five games? The Thunder are the better team, the Lakers could not afford to give away a game, they could not afford any mental lapses.

But “mental lapse” pretty much defines the Lakers final two minutes. However, one of those mistakes was not Metta World Peace’s pass to Steve Blake for an open three with the game on the line. That was smart basketball. The mistakes were a whole host of decisions in the minutes before that — including a number of poor choices by Kobe Bryant. That final play itself was a desperation play design with 5.9 seconds left which would not have led to a better shot than the one Blake took.

It was a lot of bad choices. Andrew Bynum summed it up best, via Lakers reporter Mike Trudell.

“Man that was crazy. We’re better than Santa Claus, we like giving out gifts. We give out games, contracts and rings.”

This used to be how the Lakers would win games — staging improbable comebacks with a combination of luck, brains and good shot making. Now that’s the Thunder.

Lakers fans and media seem to be focusing on the final play, when down 1 with 5.7 seconds left Blake took an open corner three rather than the team forcing the ball to Kobe with a pass over the top of an athletic defense.

But that’s not where they lost it. That’s just where they didn’t hang on.

The Lakers lost it when they shot 25 percent in the fourth quarter overall and scored just 12 points. They lost it by straying from going to Bynum in the last couple minutes. The Lakers lost it with turnovers. They lost it with bad shots. The Lakers lost it in the minutes leading up to Blake’s shot, not on the shot itself.

Fans saying Kobe didn’t get the chance to make the heroic final shot miss the point that the Lakers would not have needed to if Kobe had played better in the couple minutes prior to that. Kobe made one terrible pass for a turnover to Durant that led to a dunk. He had another pass — a poorly timed one by Blake — go off his hands. Kobe rushed and airballed a three pointer with six seconds left on the shot clock after a play became scrambled, when he had time to get a better look.

Then there was the Lakers and Kobe’s biggest strategic mistake. Kevin Durant hit what would be the game winner with 18.6 seconds left on the clock. The Lakers called a timeout and what should have been discussed in that huddle was that the Thunder had a foul to give.

Instead, the Lakers came out and (after another timeout) threw the ball to Kobe who dribbled it out and made his isolation move with 7 seconds left and then got fouled by Thabo Sefolosha, stopping the clock with 5.7.

Kobe had to go earlier. Draw that foul earlier. Or, get a better shot earlier with the ball in his hands. It is a simple truth — you would rather have the lead and defend a last second shot than have to make one against pressure defense. The Lakers had Kobe dribbling the ball out for nearly 11 seconds rather than using that time for a play that could have gotten them a better look. So what if they had to defend a Durant hero ball shot after that? It’s always better to have the lead. It’s always better to have to defend a last shot.

So let’s talk about that final play — the Lakers have run it before and it’s not pretty. (Follow that link to see it fail against New Orleans.) The play has Kobe coming off a flare screen and going to the corner of the court opposite where Metta World Peace was inbounding to catch a risky pass over the top of the defense. Mike Brown said after the game Kobe was open, but he was not yet. That pass would have been dangerous at best.

Even when it goes well this play calls for a 30-foot pass over the top of an athletic defense so that Kobe can take a 20+ foot shot fading away from the basket. That’s the play that’s going to win you a game?

The look that Blake got was a good one — an open shot with his feet set that is better than some 25-foot off-balance Kobe leaner. Yes, Blake was cold, but Kobe wasn’t exactly hot in the final minutes. Blake has to take that, and we can’t blame World Peace for making that pass, he made the right basketball play. The shot just didn’t fall.

We can discuss how there seemed to be no thought to getting either of the Lakers good passing 7-footers the ball in that spot. But the final shot was a good look.

The Lakers came in to Thursday night with a better defensive plan, they ground down the pace, they hedged on Durant’s curls and forced the issue with both him and Russell Westbrook. The Thunders stars and scoring machines were passing a lot. Mike Brown made some good moves.

But he can’t escape some blame for those final minutes. Neither can Kobe. Neither can any of the Lakers players. This was a team loss in the final two minutes.

Those minutes cost them any real shot at the series.

  1. skids003 - May 17, 2012 at 10:28 AM

    You mean the great Kobe screwed up.? And Kurt even writes that? Wow, the Mayans are ready for us, no doubt.

    • therealhtj - May 17, 2012 at 11:01 AM

      Without some drastic moves this off season, the Kobe era ends even uglier than a pair of 2nd round sweeps. In this new CBA you simply cannot afford more than 2 max deals and still fill out a quality roster. The Lakers have the equivalent of 4 max deals tied up in 3 players, none of whom is a top-5 player in the league any more.

      You need look no further than those two monster extensions ponied up to Kobe and Pau in the 2010 season to know why the Lakers are going to face similar fates the next couple of years. Short of a lucky draw where key players are out due to injury, Kobe’s ring count ends at 5 and no German voodoo Doctor can fix that.

  2. Justin - May 17, 2012 at 10:32 AM

    Anatomy of a meltdown — it wasn’t Steve Blake, Kobe blew game before that

    Fixed it

  3. usavebob - May 17, 2012 at 10:33 AM

    One of the biggest mental errors was Kobe dribbling along the sidelines versus moving toward the basket with under ten seconds allowing time to tick off and allowing Thabo to hold off on giving the foul. Kobe should have precipitated that foul at 10 seconds giving the Lakers a better look at the end.

  4. Mr. Wright 212 - May 17, 2012 at 10:45 AM

    Said as soon as KD’s shot dropped, “Lakers have got to go early!”

    Instead Kobe does that…

    Then I was flummoxed as to why Mike Brown wasted his last timeout when you needed it to advance the ball in the event that you don’t convert and have to foul.

    Durant traveled on the inbounds play BTW. But the minute they stopped going to Bynum and Kobe choked by putting up ridiculous shots and turning the ball over, they blew it. Plain and simple.

    They’ll win the back to backs, OKC has fed off the home crowd. Best two out of three. Series will go 7.

    • lyndseymarieee - May 17, 2012 at 11:07 AM

      They will not win back-to-backs. They are already tired from going 7 games with the nuggets and OKC ran them up and down the floor all night on Monday. Yesterday may have been a slower tempo game but they will still be tired in LA. They probably will win one but certainly not both. They’ll be packing their bags after 5.

      • therealhtj - May 17, 2012 at 11:14 AM

        Hey, it’d be an improvement over last year!

      • passerby23 - May 17, 2012 at 12:49 PM

        Agreed. The pace was slowed by an improved Laker defense and terrible officiating. The Lakers haven’t proven all season that they can play sustainably high-level defense and have to feel deflated after blowing Game 2, while Thunder feel emboldened. Thunder win Game 3, Lakers Game 4, and Thunder close it out in 5.

  5. buffalowned - May 17, 2012 at 11:33 AM

    Lakers didn’t lose that game Kobe did. Brick brick turnover turnover brick. Imagine what the media would be saying if lebron had a game like that lol

    • addictedzone - May 17, 2012 at 12:00 PM

      ESPN is reporting that In playoff games since 2006-07 season, Kobe is 0-7 on game-tying/go-ahead FG in final 10 seconds of 4th Qtr/OT. The rest of the team in that time is 4-7.

      But to justify your statement, they didn’t saying something like…Playing the odds, anyone but Kobe in the last ten seconds is a good play. Or that Kobe shot a lower percentage from the field than the rest of the Lakers scrubs combined.

  6. bamabob - May 17, 2012 at 1:38 PM

    Can we stop the Kobe vs. MJ debate now. Please. I know MJ had Pippen but if you took Pippen away and added that frontcourt he’d have been chasing Russell’s 11 rings.

  7. ezmagic - May 17, 2012 at 1:38 PM

    I see the fat lady getting ready to start singing.

    • therealhtj - May 17, 2012 at 6:21 PM

      Shouldn’t be hard to find one in OKC.

  8. agon10420 - May 17, 2012 at 2:11 PM

    Lakers will quit at home and lose 4 in a row iits happenedbefore kob e will make sure they get swept choker choker choker retire already you always have to be the hero forcing baseline turnaround 22ft jumpers which have zero chance of going in your not a team player

  9. lemfax - May 17, 2012 at 3:43 PM

    WMP decision is great. That’s the right play. That’s the basketball mostly decided by in/out. Concluded that game really belong to the thunder

  10. jerdogthompson - May 17, 2012 at 8:03 PM

    Boy I tell ya, I gotta hand it to the failure I mean Faker faithfuls. The Lakers controlled tempo the entire game. It was the lowest point total in an OKC game ever at home. Fakers executed on everything they wanted, refs were pretty generous I might add. All this and they whizz away a 7 point 4th QTR lead with under 2 minutes remaining? Nah, at best Fakers win 1 game at home. That’s all I will concede to, recall the game they won in OT? Unless MWP plans to take out Harden again they lack the defenders required to stop the OKC onslaught. I gotta hand it to you guys, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary you are willing to stick by your team. That’s worth something I think.

  11. omniusprime - May 18, 2012 at 9:09 AM

    Hey Kurt, don’t count the Blunder’s chickens before they hatch. Kobe and the Lakers aren’t finished yet, and after blowing a lead in the last 2 minutes of game 2 they now know they can beat the Blunder by playing smarter and harder. The Lakers need a little home cooking and they can win two to tie the series. Nothing like David Stern fixing the schedule with this back-to-back nonsense to help the little pansies from OKC to beat the veteran Lakers.

    The one to blame for the game 2 loss is Mike Brown, our clown coach who has no clue about offense. Time for Kobe to take over and have the whole team ignore Clown Brown. We need to see more of resurrecting the triangle and some tough defense, time for the Lakers to start banging hard against the Blunder newbies. Go Kobe!!! Go Lakers!!!

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