They say everything happens for a reason. That fate, karma, a higher power, etc., will emerge in a purposeful way meant to share wisdom when needed the most.
With that in mind, this game's "moment" began when overtime kicked off at 99 points per side. Heading into Miami, the Lakers were undefeated in four previous games featuring overtime roundball. It's the kind of stat one expects from defending champions, even title holders hardly playing on a consistent basis like a repeat is in the works. In the meantime, time is running out to catch a groove before the postseason, so the Lakers can ill-afford to half ass their games, even ones with a meaningless feel in the grand scheme of things.
From a cosmic viewpoint, OT was offered with the express purpose of creating a loss and teaching the Lakers a lesson.
You can't keep expecting to win with mediocre performances.
Particularly against a team like Miami that's not terribly good but nonetheless trying to sneak into the playoffs, maybe play opening-round spoiler, or just acquit itself well enough in a first round exit to convince Dwyane Wade South Beach is the place to call home.
In other words, playing to save the franchise.
By contrast, the Lakers often played in cruise control -save a seriously dialed-in Ron Artest while guarding Wade- and did just about anything possible to hand Miami a victory. Eventually, charity was accepted. No matter how unimpressive Miami may be, they're still capable of cashing in if offered the following favors:
-Ten misses in 25 tries at the line. Nobody who took more than a pair hit 100 percent. Hell, nobody who took more than a pair did better than 50 percent.
-16 turnovers, which accounted for 19 of the Heat's points. Andrew Bynum alone had five. And it ain't often the Lakers have more turnovers than assists (15), but this was the case, the low dish tally in part due to a brutal third quarter struggle against a zone defense.
- Speaking of zone D and struggles, the Lakers took 23 shots from behind the arc. That's more than preferable for a team with advantages down low, especially considering they connected on just 26.1 percent.
-Speaking of three-pointers, there was zero benefit of the doubt for Quentin Richardson behind the arc, a lack of faith converted into seven downtown makes. Much of this falls on Kobe Bryant, often stationed way too far from DePaul's finest.
Beyond the three-ball surrendered just before the fourth expired (and answered by Kobe with a quick J to force OT), there was a critical sequence where Q hit a trey with about two seconds remaining on the shot clock. Artest had harassed Wade throughout the possession and forced the guard into a clogged lane. Wade eventually looked behind him and saw Q all alone behind the arc. If Kobe had been in the neighborhood, he might have intercepted the pass, assuming Wade wasn't simply forced into a bad shot. Instead, Richardson drilled another exasperating basket.
For all of Kobe's heroics down the stretch (and he canned shots leaving me absolutely jaw-dropped), I honestly don't remember those possessions as vividly as his "free safety/center field" defense. I've never been a fan of that style and tonight didn't change my mind.
-Precious few stops in OT, when they truly counted.
-Bynum disappeared after the first half. Pau Gasol felt AWOL the entire game. Like, non-existent. "Wonder Woman's mode of transportation" invisible. Lamar Odom had moments, but hardly put his stamp on things. Against Miami's undersized frontcourt, this can't happen.
Throw it all together and you've got a team playing with fire and assuming no burn unit visit will be needed. Guess again, kids.
Hopefully, another moment followed the one described. Perhaps it occurred in the locker room as players got dressed. Maybe it was on the bus to the airport. Maybe it was on the plane to Charlotte. I have no idea if it was the result of a group meeting or rather a group mind melding as one.
In any event, it would involve a roster of 13 saying or thinking the following phrase: We're done screwing around.