(Ty Nowell/Los Angeles Lakers)
Kuzma, James Scorch, Yet Lakers Fall in Overtime Shootout
It was a thrilling comeback. It was a devastating collapse. It was a fast-paced shootout. It was a foul-mired frustration.
Ultimately for the Lakers, it was a 143-142 overtime loss to San Antonio.
The Lakers rallied from an eight-point deficit with 64 seconds left in regulation to force overtime. However, they also squandered a six-point lead with 56 seconds remaining in OT, losing on a Patty Mills jumper.
LeBron James missed his first six shots from the field, but recovered for a brilliant, 32-point, 14-assist, eight-rebound performance. He even tied the game with 3.3 seconds left in the fourth quarter by sauntering down the court and pulling up from 28 feet away.
The man known for his clutch buckets provided his first in purple and gold.
“I just got to my shot and trusted it,” James said. “I got a good rhythm coming up the floor and just trusted my shot. I work on it every day. I was able to get a good bounce into it and get a good look at it.”
James was also the Lakers’ engine in overtime, scoring twice in the paint and assisting on three more baskets. However, he also missed a pair of free throws with 12.8 seconds remaining, which he called “unacceptable.”
With losses to three playoff contenders — Portland, Houston and San Antonio — James is now 0-3 for the first time since his sophomore season 14 years ago.
“I know what I got myself into,” James said. "It’s a process. I get it. We’ll be fine. I didn’t come here thinking we were going to be blazing storms right out of the gate.”
With Brandon Ingram and Rajon Rondo suspended, the Lakers’ new starting lineup hobbled out of the gate, trailing by as many as 18 points in the first quarter.
But James — who had just four points at halftime — scored 23 in the second half as he bulldozed the Spurs out of the post, off the dribble and in transition.
He was joined by a white-hot Kyle Kuzma, who racked up 37 points — one short of his career-high — and eight rebounds.
Kuzma, who started in Ingram’s stead, attacked the basket with renewed ferocity. And with James as his primary distributor, Kuzma also spotted up for four 3-pointers.
“He was spectacular,” James said. “He was great. Made big shots, made big plays. Kept us in the game when we were down. He did a little bit of everything.”
James, Kuzma and Josh Hart — who had 20 points and 10 rebounds — were the key components to the Lakers’ lethal transition attack. They scored 41 fast-break points — missing the franchise record by one — while the Spurs only had seven.
Yet while the running game was fruitful, the free throw line was not.
San Antonio attempted 38 foul shots — a dozen more than the Lakers. Through three games, L.A. has attempted 24 fewer free throws than its opponents, despite averaging 71.3 points in the paint.
An incensed Luke Walton blasted the officiating after the game, and was particularly upset with a non-call on one of LeBron’s drives that resulted in Walton receiving a second-quarter technical foul.
“We are scoring 70 points a night in the paint,” Walton said, knocking on his podium. “Watch how Josh Hart plays this game. He played 40 minutes tonight. All he does is attack the rim. Zero free throws tonight.
“I know [the players] are young, I get that. But if we’re going to play a certain way, let’s not reward people for flopping 30 feet from the hole on plays that have nothing to do with that possession.
“They’re just flopping to see if they can get a foul call. And then not reward players who are physically going to the basket and getting hit.”
In spite of that free throw disparity, the Lakers still gave themselves a chance to win.
Down eight with just over a minute remaining in the fourth, Kuzma took over by dropping the ball off for a JaVale McGee dunk before hitting a corner 3-pointer from James.
Then LeBron stepped into a clutch triple of his own.
Shortly after, the Lakers seized control in overtime, thanks in large part to an unlikely hero.
Johnathan Williams was cut by the Lakers 10 days ago, but returned on a two-way contract that he signed Saturday. After McGee and Zubac fouled out while trying to defend a monstrous LaMarcus Aldridge (37 points, 10 rebounds), Williams was called to action.
The rookie center was brilliant in overtime, recording three blocks, two clutch buckets and a handful of solid screens. He finished the night with eight points on 4-of-5 shooting, four boards and three swats in only 14 minutes.“I played in the Final Four back in college, and the national championship game,” Williams said. “I’ve been through the biggest stage, but playing in the NBA is pretty incredible, too.”
Can't say enough about Johnathan Williams, who was signed to a two-way contract three days ago.— Joey Ramirez (@JoeyARamirez) October 23, 2018
After both of the Lakers' top centers fouled out, he was called upon in overtime & delivered.
In OT: Three big blocks, good screening, a tough put-back & an and-1 off the roll. pic.twitter.com/TK9vsw7Qpn
But it was not enough to deliver victory. With 56 seconds to go, Bryn Forbes hit a driving layup and Rudy Gay added a 3-pointer.
The Spurs faked a play for DeMar DeRozan (32 points, 14 assists, eight rebounds) but instead got the ball to Patty Mills, who flew around a handoff and hit the go-ahead jumper.
LeBron attempted a step-back for the win, but was off the mark.
A fan, Ali Sabbouri, hit a half-court shot to win $30,000 in the Aria Big Shot Jackpot. … San Antonio hit 15 3-pointers on a 53.6 percent clip. … Lonzo Ball (14 points, six rebounds, six assists) started in place of Rondo. … The Lakers had huge advantages in points in the paint (75-50) and second-chance points (22-11). … Ndamukong Suh, Natalie Portman and John David Washington were among the sold-out crowd.
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