Lakers Turn Over Key Stretch

At first glance, L.A.’s mistakes, or misfortune, or what have you in the final two minutes of Thursday evening’s loss at Miami stick out as explanations for what went awry.

- Missed three-pointers from Kobe Bryant, one from as deep as could be and the other really early in the shot clock with 25 seconds to play, the latter of which he thought was a foul.
- A failure to keep Dwyane Wade out of the paint or contest his shots at the rim. Missed layups from Pau Gasol and Ron Artest, the Spaniard looking for a contact foul and the New Yorker for goal tending, but misses nonetheless.

But we’d be remiss to forget about the impact of the final minutes of the third quarter.

With 3:09 left in that period, the Lakers held a 68-62 lead thanks to a 9-0 run capped by Derek Fisher’s three and the type of consistent defense that had been there for the Lakers in their eight-game winning streak. The Lakers had survived a torrent first half from the Heat — backs pressed firmly against the wall trying to snap a five-game losing streak and subdue a mountain of criticism — and come out with renewed purpose out of halftime to take control of the contest, holding Miami to only seven points in the first eight minutes while forcing seven turnovers.

Then, this happened:

- 2:47: Derek Fisher bad pass turnover (68-62 LAL)
- 2:15: Andrew Bynum bad pass turnover (Miami’s Chris Bosh misses two free throws)
- 1:44: Shannon Brown bad pass turnover (68-64 LAL after a Dwyane Wade transition layup)
- 1:30: Kobe Bryant missed shot from the paint
- 1:06: Pau Gasol bad pass turnover (68-66 after a LeBron James transition layup)

That’s four turnovers in 1:41 of action. As such, it’s now a classic case of “coulda woulda shoulda,” the Lakers watching what may have been a double-digit lead heading into the fourth quarter be cut down to a two-point margin, as Lamar Odom and James exchanged baskets in the final minute to set the score at 70-68.

The fourth quarter was a back-and-forth battle that Bryant tied at 88 with a deep three-pointer at the 2:26 mark, but from there, the Lakers had another run of mistakes and mishaps that ultimately spelled their doom.

At least for one night.

After all, Phil Jackson is placing greater emphasis on the team’s Saturday game at Dallas, which could prove to be critical for Western Conference seeding purposes since teams only play three times this season and the Mavs have the only win with two to play. In other words, if the Lakers lose this one, they’ll drop the season series to Dallas even with a home win on March 31, which would be a loss of a potential tiebreaker if the two teams — currently separated by 1.5 games — end up with matching records.

One thing the Lakers will certainly go over in Friday’s practice is executing without the turnovers that proved so critical in that two-minute stretch of the third quarter in Miami, and ultimately the game.