Lakers' defense on Quentin Richardson and turnovers contribute to 114-111 overtime loss to Miami Heat
This was the guy no one wanted. Quentin Richardson spent most of last summer packing his bags, joining a new team, repacking his bags, joining a new team, and then rinsing and repeating. The process happened four times, yes, four times, for Richardson, who had played last season for New York. But then he made quick stops in the locker rooms of Memphis, the Clippers, Minnesota and finally Miami.
For someone who was so unwanted this offseason, the Lakers surely made Richardson look like a highly coveted man Thursday in a 114-111 overtime loss to the Heat. He scored a team-high 25 points on eight-of- 13 shooting, a huge increase from the 8.1 points he's averaged this season.
The Lakers also committed 16 turnovers, which led to Miami scoring 19 points. After replaying the game, it's apparent that these two factors could've been the most controlled. For all the credit Lakers guard Kobe Bryant deservedly got for scoring 39 points on 15-of-28 shooting, he was the main defensive liability in guarding Richardson, whose six of eight made field goals came against Bryant. Meanwhile, the team's turnovers were mostly rooted in poor communication and lapses in decision-making.
Below is a breakdown of what went wrong (after the jump)
First quarter, 10:48 - 10:41
With Miami guard Carlos Arroyo manning the point, forward Michael Beasley set a high screen on Lakers guard Derek Fisher. Arroyo flashed right and had space, but Bryant left Richardson wide open at the top of the key while playing his "center field" position at the free-throw line. Richardson's 25-footer gave Miami a 3-2 lead.
First quarter, 4:03 - 3:53
Lakers forward Ron Artest tightly guarded Dwyane Wade as he brought the ball past the timeline, so Miami center Joel Anthony set a backscreen on Artest just above the three-point line at the top of the key. As Wade drove left, Pau Gasol and Fisher approached on help D along the left elbow as Artest quickly caught up. Wade lobbed the ball to forward Dorell Wright, but his timing was off as Wright caught the pass underneath the basket. Wright found Beasley open on the near baseline. With Bryant playing D inside, Richardson was left open on the near side. Artest sprinted from the left block to help, but Richardson's three-pointer rimmed in, giving Miami a 20-18 lead.
Second quarter, 3:18 - 3:01
Bryant continued to sag inside on defense, leaving Richardson open for a near-corner three. When Wade passed the ball to Richardson, Bryant quickly approached Richardson, forced him to drive baseline and then cut off his initial penetration. After Richardson passed the ball back to Wade at the top of the key, Wade drove left off a high-screen set by guard Jermaine O'Neal on Artest. Gasol and Fisher stopped Wade on help, though Wade still looked for his shot. Instead of taking an off-balance jumper, Wade kicked the ball out to the Richardson on the near side. Bryant, again defending inside, flashed out to Richardson, who nevertheless hit a 26-foot three-pointer to cut the Lakers' lead to 40-39.
Third quarter, 11:44 - 11:37
After Richardson fed O'Neal in the post, Richardson cut along the far baseline and Bryant tripped over himself. O'Neal found a wide-open Richardson for the easy layup, cutting the Lakers' lead to 47-46.
Third quarter, 7:55 - 7:48
On this play, Bryant and Artest switched their defensive matchup, with Bryant guarding Wade and Artest guarding Richardson. Bryant played center field along the top of the key, but Wade threw a pass from the timeline to an open Richardson on the near side of the perimeter. Artest hadn't given Richardson the "straitjacket" treatment, Bryant's term for the previous six games that featured Artest holding a marquee opponent under its season scoring average. The open space helped Richardson sink a 23-foot three-pointer, giving Miami a 57-55 lead.
Third quarter, 4:58 - 4:48
Sound familiar? Wade found Richardson on the near corner again, given too much space by Bryant. Richardson's 24-foot three-pointer gave the Heat a 64-63 edge.
Third quarter, 4:35 - 4:26
After O'Neil quickly stole the ball away from center Andrew Bynum in the paint, Wade stopped at the timeline and passed to Richardson on the far end behind the perimeter. Both Gasol and Fisher went out to contest the shot, but Richardson sank a 25-foot three-pointer to give Miami a 67-63 lead.
Fourth quarter, :15 - :11
With Artest guarding Wade up top, Wade threw a no-look pass to Richardson, who stood unguarded on the far end of the perimeter. Per usual, Bryant stepped out, but the leverage helped Richardson nail a 24-foot three-pointer with 11 seconds left in regulation, giving Miami a 99-97 lead.
What this means
Bryant said to reporters afterward, "Some of those threes he hit, I was literally in his face. He just knocked them down." A look at the film shows that Bryant isn't exactly lying, but it's incredibly misleading.
To Bryant's credit, he reacted and tried as best he could to contest Richardson's shot anytime he got the ball. But there was never a time Richardson scored when he hadn't already had leverage. Bryant has been known to play what's been called "free safety/center field" defense, in which he gives shooters space on the perimeter, leaving Bryant the ability to cheat on defense and be open to help if needed.
That may have been a legitimate strategy going into the game, especially with Artest being mostly assigned to cover Wade. Obviously the stat line reads that Wade had 27 points and 14 assists, a feat that won't draw the rave reviews like Artest received when he recently limited Denver's Carmelo Anthony. But Artest held Wade to nine-of-21 shooting and forced him to commit six turnovers. Though Wade produced more offensively, it would have been more feasible for the Lakers to limit Richardson. And when it was obvious Richardson was getting the hot hand, Bryant should've locked in on him on the perimeter right from the get-go.
First quarter, 11:44 -11:38
Artest had the ball on the near left corner, drove left past Richardson and then met a help defender along the baseline in Beasley. Artest overlooked an open Gasol in the left area of the paint and attempted to hit Bynum on the far side of the paint but Beasley intercepted Artest's pass.
First quarter, 8:55
On an inbounds pass, Bynum set a screen on Wade but was called for an offensive foul because of a moving pick. Although Wade exaggerated the impact, Bynum definitely moved his shoulder too much into him. On the next play, O'Neal hit a 15-foot jumper, giving Miami a 5-4 lead.
First quarter, 8:26 - 8:07
Bryant placed a bounce pass to the far post to Gasol, but Beasley intercepted the pass. The root of that breakdown began with Gasol not properly posting up on Beasley and allowing him to penetrate around him. On the next possession, Beasley's jumper gave Miami a 7-4 lead.
First quarter, 5:59 - 5:52
From above the left block, Gasol tried setting up Bryant on a high-low, but the lob pass was tipped by Richardson. That led to Wade scoring on a fast-break layup to give the Heat a 13-12 lead.
First quarter, 5:12 - 5:09
With Artest on the far end of the perimeter, Bryant flashed toward the free-throw line. Artest made a poor pass that made it easy for Richardson to intercept. As indicated by the level of speed Bryant was moving, he was planning to cut above the free-throw line. But when Artest made the pass, Bryant stopped so he could try retrieving it.
First quarter, 2:36 - 2:29
Lakers forward Josh Powell grabbed a rebound from Wade's missed jumper and fired an outlet pass cross court to Artest. But the pass was thrown too far and to the center of the court, right into the hands of Richardson.
Second quarter 10:29 - 10:24
Bynum grabbed the rebound from guard Shannon Brown's missed runner in the lane, but Wright quickly batted the ball away and tipped it to Arroyo.
Second quarter, 7:31 - 7:24
Lakers forward Lamar Odom brought the ball up the floor after cleaning the glass from Mario Chalmers' missed jumper. He threw a very high and hard-to-reach pass to Bynum, who couldn't gain control of the pass, and Chalmers made the steal.
Second quarter, 4:57 - 4:48
Fisher manned the point on the far end of the court and drove past Arroyo along the far baseline. Fisher dumped the ball off to Gasol, but Beasley swiped the ball out of Gasol's hands and Arroyo saved the ball from going out of bounds.
Second quarter, 2:54 - 2:47
Gasol looked to feed an entry pass to Bynum, but he quickly drew a double team. After Fisher flashed inside, Gasol looked to him but Wade tipped the pass and the ball led to Richardson. He quickly passed it back to Wade, who led a break that resulted in Arroyo making a layup that gave the Heat a 41-40 lead.
Third quarter, 4:39 - 4:36
Gasol fed Bynum inside, but O'Neal quickly snagged the ball away from him. That led to Wade finding Richardson open for a 25-foot three-pointer on the far end of the court, giving the Heat a 67-63 lead.
Third quarter, 4:17 - 4:07
After Artest threw an entry pass to Bynum just outside the paint on the nearside, he drew a double team. Bynum raised the ball over his head and moved his pivot foot to look for an open teammate. He wrongly passed to Artest under the basket, though Artest wasn't in position to make the grab. Beasley intercepted, and the ball bounced off Gasol and went out of bounds.
Fourth quarter, 8:35 - 8:32
Brown's inbounds pass to Bryant was intercepted by Wade, though Brown quickly stole the ball back. There's actually nothing noteworthy here, but I just didn't want to leave any turnover unturned.
Fourth quarter, 6:17 - 6:13Though Bynum wasn't positioned inside, Odom threw an entry pass in there, only to be denied by Wright.
Overtime, 2:23 - 2:13
Bryant manned the point and was heavily guarded by Richardson. As Bryant drove left, Miami forward Udonis Haslem came up to double Bryant. Meanwhile, Bynum flashed up inside. Bryant fired Bynum a pass, but the ball bounced off his right fingers. Whose fault was it? Both. Bryant's pass was too quick and out of Bynum's reach. But when Bynum cut toward the free-throw line, he was looking directly at Bryant. That means he should've been ready for any pass thrown his way.
Overtime, :21 - :18
From the top of the key, Bryant drove left past Richardson and appeared to be on his way to tie the game up. But he ran into O'Neal, who had his feet planted and drew the charge. It was the right call, and the Lakers trailed 111-109.
What it means
This is a classic case of the whole team struggling in the turnover department. On one hand, it's good because it establishes that everyone on the Lakers has to own up and recognize nearly every individual was partly responsible for the turnovers. On the other hand, this is a bad sign because it shows that the team is lacking chemistry.
As I mentioned before, lots of the mistakes were rooted in slight errors in judgment and inconsistent communication. These are really small areas to fix, but when they keep happening with great frequency, the consequences magnify.
-- Mark Medina
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Photo: Miami's Quentin Richardson celebrates an off-balance shot that tied the game late in the fourth quarter. Credit: Robert Duyos / South Florida Sun Sentinel
Photo: Kobe Bryant is fouled by Heat power forward Udonis Haslem, right, as teammate Jamaal Magloire helps defend. Credit: Rhona Wise / EPA