The Los Angeles Lakers suffered their toughest loss of the season to the Dallas Mavericks on Friday night. As a result of pivotal last-second mistakes by Anthony Davis — on top of other shortcomings — Maxi Kleber’s 3-pointer at the buzzer off a brilliant Kyrie Irving dish delivered the Mavs a stunning 111-110 win at Crypto.com Arena.
Maxi Kleber and the Mavs beat the Lakers at the buzzer. Wow. pic.twitter.com/z8NwVwrzU7
— Michael Corvo (@michaelcorvoNBA) March 18, 2023
The Mavs (36-35) reclaimed the No. 6 spot in the Western Conference, while the Lakers (34-37) dropped back to No. 10. The decision to rest AD vs. the Houston Rockets on Wednesday now looks even costlier after their third loss in four games.
“We need all of ’em from here on out,” said Austin Reaves.
The mood was “obviously down” around the Lakers postgame, as Reaves described. He, AD, and Darvin Ham each lamented contributing factors to what Wenyen Gabriel called a “devastating” loss to the Luka Doncic-less Mavs.
3) 3-point shooting
The Lakers were arguably the NBA’s worst outside shooting unit before the trade deadline. They’ve been league-average since, but have had games in which their perimeter attack was deadly. In their most recent victory over the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday, the Lakers set a franchise record for 3s made in a half, players shared Instagram posts of the bench doing D’Angelo Russell’s “ice in my veins” celebration, and Malik Beasley seemed to have a belated breakout game.
Then, they shot 11-of-44 from behind the arc against the lowly Rockets on Wednesday night. On Friday, they also shot just 25% (5-of-20) from deep. Dallas hit 16-of-34 of their threes, including one of two left-wing buzzer-beaters the Lakers have surrendered this season.
“It’s like Indiana all over again,” said Ham, referencing Andrew Nembhard’s identical game-winner in November.
“I think we as a team need to shoot more 3s,” stated Reaves, who had 16 points and missed his only long-range attempt. “20 is eh. But that’s the game today. I think we need to get a little more up. I think we got a lot of guys that can shoot the ball. … In New Orleans that got everybody going.”
2) Fouls and free throw shooting
Ham was especially peeved about the Lakers’ performance at the charity stripe combined with sloppy shot contests.
“I thought we weren’t disciplined in certain stages. Had some really bad fouls fouling shooters … throughout the game.”
Los Angeles committed eight fewer fouls than the Mavs but they clanked 12 free throws — the most consequential being AD’s miss on the first of two chances with 6.1 seconds to go (not the first time Davis has missed critical last-second freebies). Two makes would have ensured overtime, at worst.
“We did the job we want to seek out to do every game, and that’s win the free throw line,” said Ham. “Got 31 attempts. But you gotta make more than 19. We make our free throws, we’re probably not having this conversation.”
“It sucks, to say the least,” added Reaves. “61% from the free-throw line. It’s not good. We make 25 of those, it’s a little bit less stressful down the stretch.”
1) AD’s final seconds
Davis (26 points, 10 rebounds) surely wants back his foul on Kleber’s 3-point attempt with the Lakers up 109-105 with 7.0 seconds left. Kleber made all three free throws.
Rewatched this one a 100 times too. This was honestly the game for me. Up 4 with 11 seconds left. You can almost concede a two here. Instead AD wanders aimlessly to the paint and has a reckless closeout. Slow motion here too. pic.twitter.com/xuGwNOO0Q8
— Raj C. (@RajChipalu) March 18, 2023
“Just tried to contest on the side,” said AD. “I just jumped so far, I probably clipped him a little bit. I tried to jump on the side of him. Couple of bad defensive plays by me.”
After his own missed free throw, AD got caught ball-watching Irving (38 points) on the final possession. The Lakers’ late-game strategy to aggressively blitz Kyrie forced the ball out of his hands, but — thanks to a perfectly timed and placed pass — Davis was out of position when the ball got to his man.
“He got pretty much a line drive pass over to Kleber,” recalled Ham. “We made it difficult, tried to be as active as possible, and he found the open guy, and we didn’t get there fast enough. But, AD had a last-minute outstretched contest.”
“He pretty much dribbled the whole clock out,” recounted Davis. “Me just reading him, knowing he’s probably gonna take the last shot — he goes into his actual shooting motion and just comes down with it … So when he goes up it just kinda pulled me in. I was going for the rebound, thinking he was shooting it. And he made a good pass to Kleber.”
Anthony Davis on two of his critical miscues in the final eight seconds: the missed free throw, and the close out that got Maxi Kleber to the foul line. pic.twitter.com/e9QRqrsIju
— Kyle Goon (@kylegoon) March 18, 2023
At this point, as LeBron James remains sidelined, the Lakers simply can’t afford to make those types of errors, regardless of how profoundly skillful the play was by Kyrie and Kleber. That’s the NBA.