Down two with less than 10 seconds remaining, LeBron James came up with a clutch steal off the Heat inbounds pass. With everyone in the building expecting him to take the game-winning three, James was double teamed at the top of the key. Instead of forcing up a contested prayer, the Lakers’ superstar passed the ball off to Alex Caruso for the final shot.
Just inside the three-point line, Caruso’s potentially game-tying shot hit front rim — sealing the game at 96-94. The fourth-year role player was clearly dejected by the miss.
The Heat survive to beat the Lakers: pic.twitter.com/wFa7oCsGHf
— ESPN (@espn) February 21, 2021
LeBron, an outspoken lover of Caruso’s game, shared the one thing he didn’t like about the shot after the game.
“I think the only bad thing about it is that he shot a long 2,” James said, via ESPN’s Dave McMenamin. “I wish he would have shot a 3 and, make or miss, I’ll live with that.”
Throughout his 18-year NBA career, James has often been criticized for delegating clutch shots to his teammates. But, like it almost always is, LeBron’s decision to hit Caruso for an open shot in the corner was clearly the right one.
With Lakers’ superstar forward Anthony Davis out (calf strain), James has been forced to pick up the slack. But, his 19 points, nine rebounds and nine assists last night simply just weren’t enough to get it done without the other half of his All Star duo.
Game-tying miss aside, the Lakers’ role players didn’t exactly play to their standards either. Averaging 5.2 ppg this year, Caruso finished the game with zero points and four assists.
The Heat on the other hand played one of the strongest games of their season. Heading into this Finals rematch, Miami had notched a disappointing 12-17 record (10th in the East). Jimmy Butler showed out as always, dropping 24 points, eight rebounds and five assists. Second-year guard Kendrick Nunn also continues his breakout season, collecting a team-high 27 points through 40 minutes of play.
With this loss, the Lakers drop to third place in the West behind the LA Clippers.