It was the right basketball play.
LeBron James draws the anticipated double-team and uses physical power to drag both defenders with him, knowing that will leave a teammate open. It happens exactly as he imagines. No one is within 10 feet of his Lakers teammate. He makes the pass.
To Danny Green.
Green gathers the ball, takes one bounce for rhythm and balance and launches as Miami forward Andre Iguodala sprints toward him but can’t fill the gap. The ball lands short, scraping the front of the rim. Another teammate, Markieff Morris, grabs the loose rebound, seems discombobulated and, with 2.2 seconds remaining, heaves a pass into the ether. Turnover.
Game over. You lose.
The Warriors, with their well-documented postseason history against LeBron, shrug and smirk.
It’s the right play, though. Based purely on basketball dogma, LeBron, basketball savant, does the right thing.
But . . . Danny Green?
“We got a hell of a look,” James tells reporters in Florida after a 111-108 loss to the Heat extends the series to a sixth game Sunday. “We got a hell of a look to win the game, to win the series. It didn’t go down.”
Green needs that shot to drop. It’s the only way he escapes the doghouse Lakers fans have locked him into for, get this, missing so many open shots.
The veteran is a solid player, gives it to his team on both ends. He also is the absolute wrong guy to have the ball in the final seconds. All-World Anthony Davis, who had scored 28 points but clearly is hobbling, is on the floor. Guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, the only teammate with multiple buckets in the fourth quarter, including a 3-pointer that gives LA its first lead since the first quarter, is on the floor. Morris is on the floor.
And you’re LeBron. You’ve been spectacular, scoring a game-high 40 points on 15-of-21 shooting from the field, including 6-of-9 from deep. Grabbing a game-high 13 rebounds. Passing for a team-high seven assists. Brilliant is an understatement.
But that eighth assist, the one needed to win the game and likely close out the NBA Finals, doesn’t come because Green, with 7.1 seconds remaining, cannot convert an open look. He misses short, indicative of shooting through a thicket of nerves.
“He was ready to take on the whole team,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said of James on the last play. “He had two guys on him. A third defender came and so with three guys on you, he made the right play. Danny is one of our best shooters, he had a great look, and we live with the results.”
Green is shooting 33.0 percent beyond the arc this postseason. He probably is the last guy who should have been shooting. Not sure anyone other than LeBron or AD should be shooting. They scored all nine LA points inside the final five minutes Davis with two and James with seven. LeBron’s teammates were 0-of-4 down the stretch on open looks off his passes.
This was Green’s chance to punch his ride-along ticket with LeBron. As Chicago Bulls Steve Kerr and John Paxson had done in draining game-winning shots off passes from a double-teamed Michael Jordan all those years ago.
But Kerr was one of the best shooters in the NBA. He still owns the best career 3-point shooting percentage, 45.4, in league history. He was a case of properly placed trust.
Paxson, who shot an incredible 46.3 percent from deep in 1992-93, the year his 3-ball gave the Bulls their third consecutive championship. He was trusted, with good reason.
Danny Green? He entered Game 5 shooting 20 percent (4-of-20) in The Finals. He’s now, through five games, 6-of-22 (27.3 percent).
And that 22nd attempt will be remembered for at least two days. Much, much longer if LeBron and the Lakers back themselves into a Game 7.