Anthony Davis was quick to blame himself for the Lakers’ loss to the Celtics the other day. Not that he didn’t play well; in fact, his stat line of 37 (on 13-of-24 shooting from the field), 12, three, one, and one underscored yet another brilliant effort in a Most Valuable Player award-worthy season. It was that he failed once more to ice a match against an East powerhouse following a poor effort from the free-throw line. Mimicking his late charity miss against the Sixers over the weekend, he failed to find the bottom of the net in two tries from the stripe with 28 ticks left; the development kept their lead at two and allowed the visitors to force overtime en route to a win.
Significantly, head coach Darvin Ham was likewise ready to accept criticism for what he noted was his mediocre work from the bench, particularly in the fourth quarter. Given that he needed to ride his vital cogs, 37-year-old LeBron James included, in order for the hosts to keep pace with the conference-leading Celtics, he felt that he could have scheduled his timeouts better to allow for rest. Even as he wasn’t wrong to associate the lack of breathing space with Davis’ deadball misses, however, the Lakers’ woes did not start and end there. Far more fundamental infirmities are at the forefront.
As James duly pointed out in his post-contest presser, a loss is a loss. There are no moral victories for the Lakers, and especially not in an encounter that saw them get behind early, manage to right themselves enough to erect a double-digit lead, and then snatch defeat from the throes of triumph by execrable execution down the stretch. They had a 99.3% chance to prevail with four minutes left in regulation, only to be done in by their own frailties.
The best teams in the National Basketball Association manage to cope and deal with adversity in one way or another. Needless to say, the Lakers aren’t one of those teams. And because there is no consolation prize for a near miss, they would do well to address what they need to so that, in the first place, Davis would not need to can free throws just for the purple and gold to avoid seeing red.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, operations and human resources management, corporate communications, and business development.