The Los Angeles Lakers fell to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday night in embarrassing fashion. Despite being up by seven points with less than two minutes remaining in the outing, L.A. choked away its only real shot at making this an even mildly competitive series thanks to ugly turnovers, zero ball movement and a complete lack of understanding as it applies to running out the clock.
And yet, even with all that being said, the Lakers still had a shot to win the game in the closing seconds. With no timeouts remaining and one final chance to steal a much-needed win on the road, Metta World Peace inbounded the ball to Steve Blake, who took a corner three that bricked off the rim. Game over. Lakers lose.
Predictably, folks are now wondering who should shoulder the majority of the blame for that awful final play. (Because we already know who deserves the blame for the collapse that happened prior to it.) Should it be Kobe Bryant, who puzzlingly opted to run away from the ball knowing full well that his team was out of timeouts and needed to make the pass on that particular possession? Is it Mike Brown, for continuing his longstanding tradition of drawing up awkward, terribly-designed last-second plays? Is it Blake for, ultimately, missing that shot?
Obviously reasonable people can disagree on this, but it’s hard to blame Blake here. Sure, he missed a big shot, but he’s made plenty of others for L.A. over the course of this postseason run. Brown and Bryant, on the other hand, probably do deserve the brunt of the criticism for what transpired. If you’re Brown, how do you design a play that has Bryant running away from the ball knowing that the ball must be inbounded within that five-second span because there are no timeouts remaining? And if you’re Bryant, even if Brown does draw up that painfully stupid play, how do you go along with it? Are you really expecting Peace to give you a crosscourt Hail Mary in that situation?
There is plenty of blame to go around for that horrid mess of a final play, but the majority of it should go to the Lakers’ head coach and superstar.