“I saw a guy wide open going to the rim,” Pau Gasol started off his post-game press conference. “You don’t lose a game in one play but to lose a game like that with a layup still hurts.”
On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the Los Angeles Lakers and Chicago Bulls played a memorable match that featured 23-lead changes and went into overtime. If the 102-100 score line explained the loss, it showed that the Lakers played defense. As a team, the Lakers blocked nine shots and swiped 22 steals.
Ultimately, however, Nick Young’s 31 points and Pau Gasol’s 20 points and 19 rebounds were overshadowed by a rather peculiar coaching decision late in the game: Manny Harris played for a total of six seconds in the overtime period, and his six seconds cost the Lakers a win on Monday.
Placing blame on Harris, however, is misguided.
First of all, he should never have been put into that position. Harris only recently joined the Lakers on a 10-day contract that was executed on Thursday. When first asked about Harris, Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni had commented that Harris would be “thrown into the fire” since Nick Young was suspended at the time. Well, Harris survived the fire until Monday, when D’Antoni burned the shooting guard.
The clock showed 6.0 seconds remained, and the scoreboard read 100-100. Kendall Marshall had played the first 4:54 of the five minute overtime period before being called out. Young, Gasol, Jodie Meeks and Ryan Kelly all played the full five minutes of the extra period.
Marshall sat for six seconds of overtime, and those six seconds cost the Lakers the game.
Three games and zero practices into his time with the Lakers, Harris was asked to play defense during the most important possession of the game. The first 5.1 seconds went off smoothly enough with a deflection landing the ball out of bounds under the basket.
Then, with 0.9 seconds remaining, the Lakers lined up against the Bulls at the free throw line. With Gasol guarding the in-bounds passer, the other four Lakers created a defensive wall preventing their opposition from getting a clear path to the basket.
Then, the Lakers’ coaching staff sent a message to Kelly, and Kelly said something to Harris. Clearly, this was not a smooth process, but Harris interpreted the message as asking him to go to other side of the stacked up Bulls to guard against a perimeter pass.
At this point, Harris walked around Gibson, and Gibson waited patiently for his teammate, Jimmy Butler, to drag away the only Laker between Gibson and the basket. Gibson broke to the basket with the defender on the wrong side, and the ball left Gibson’s hands in less than the 0.9 seconds on the clock. Even in real time, it looked like it happened in slow motion. The buzzer sounded.
“We fought too hard to lose like that,” a clearly upset Young said after game.
They did lose, and the Bulls won 102-100.
Harris was not at fault. This loss was on D'Antoni.