Lakers News: L.A. Blows Massive Lead Over Pacers Late, Falls 116-115
Los Angeles fumbles away a 17-point fourth quarter lead, loses on Andrew Nembhard buzzer-beater.
Well that was brutal.
Your Los Angeles Lakers seemed to be pretty much steering the ship for most of the night as they hosted the Indiana Pacers following a three-game road stint.
Unfortunately, L.A. got a little too comfortable, and despite a seventh straight 20-10 game from Anthony Davis they punted away a significant fourth quarter lead to eventually lose by a single point on a buzzer-beater three from rookie reserve Andrew Nembhard.
Let's unpack this unhappy turn of events, during Chick Hearn Night no less.
The Lakers started off with a high-scoring first quarter effort. LeBron James played what has become a somewhat standard Old LeBron game, generating most of his early offense on jumpers away from the paint. Anthony Davis-as-center remained as formidable as ever, check out this exquisite block on a driving Aaron Nesmith:
The rest of L.A. got most of its buckets around the rack. L.A. led after the first 32-29.
The two teams exchanged buckets through most of the second quarter. AD again was the star of the show, proving to be a bit of a Block Machine tonight.
Point guard Dennis Schroder, starting in the stead of the still-suspended Patrick Beverley, nailed a buzzer-beating triple to help L.A. build out a two-possession lead at the halftime break. James (14 points, two assists) and Davis (16 points, five assists) led the way for Los Angeles.
L.A. got some more significant separation in the third quarter, thanks in large part to a 19-9 run midway through the frame. In a spooky preview of things to come, the Lakers let their collective (and figurative) foot off the gas late, and, after leading by as much as 14 points, let the Pacers crawl within double digits on an 8-1 run during the third period's final 1:12.
The fourth quarter began well, as the Lakers quickly went on a blitzing 8-0 tear to get up to a seemingly commanding 101-84 lead with 9:59 remaining in the period.
Russell Westbrook, wearing a headband tonight for a look that the Lakers' Twitter account called "Headband Brodie," was a big part of that run, electrifying the Crypto.com crowd with moments like this:
After that 17-point lead, however, everything went south pretty quickly for the Lakers. The Pacers nailed a quick triple, and Darvin Ham opted to remove Russell Westbrook with the lead still 101-87. The Pacers instantly went on a 7-0 run. Ultimately, Indiana outscored L.A. 32-14 the rest of the way.
The game would be clinched at the last possible second, after several relatively fruitless Lakers possessions (with Westbrook holding onto the ball way too long, and James forcing up jumpers) let the Pacers right back into the contest.
Indiana had the ball in the game's closing seconds with plenty of time to spare, and the Lakers played defense like chickens running around with their heads cut off.
Let's look at this from another angle. This is a massive, massive mistake. All five Lakers careened to one side of the floor (with Westbrook around the nail), leaving Nembhard wide open on the weak side. Prior to that shot, the rookie had made three of his triple attempts on the night. So... maybe somebody should have rotated out sooner (James did try to close out, but it was way, way too late). Just a thought.
Note how crushed these home fans are. Perhaps they realize that this defeat represents a completely blown opportunity, the Lakers could have nabbed one of their more impressive victories of the season against a solid young team within the friendly confines of Crypto.com Arena. Instead, the game slipped through their fingers, and they slipped to a pretty unimpressive 7-12 record.
Davis finished with 25 points on an efficient 9-of-15 shooting, as well as 13 rebounds, six assists, and four blocks. He has now become clearly the team's best option, and it is a crime that he is getting fewer touches than both James and Westbrook.
James lingered outside way too much, taking a whopping ten triple attempts and making just three of them. He finished with 21 points on 8-of-22 shooting (a terrible 36.4%), seven rebounds, three assists and a steal.
Westbrook had what on paper looked like a decent game, with 24 points on 10-of-18 shooting, six impressive assists (albeit against six turnovers), four rebounds, a steal and a block. But that doesn't tell the whole story. Late in the fourth quarter, L.A.'s veteran sixth man made costly mistakes with the ball in his hands during crucial possessions. He held onto the rock far too long, and tried to do too much, forcing up awkward jumpers instead of passing to James or Davis.
Austin Reaves was the Lakers' only other player to score in double figures. He had 13 points on 2-of-4 shooting from the floor and 7-of-7 shooting from the free throw line.
Six Pacers scored in double digits during the victory, led by star guards Tyrese Haliburton (24 points on 10-of-22 shooting from the floor and 1-of-3 shooting from the charity stripe, plus 14 assists and seven rebounds) and Bennedict Mathurin (23 points on 10-of-22 shooting from the floor, plus eight rebounds).