Murphy’s law goes as such: “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong, and at the worst possible time.” The namesake of the timeless adage (Edward A. Murphy) was talking about aerospace engineering, but it could very well apply to the Los Angeles Lakers’ brutal loss to the Indian Pacers on Monday at Crypto.com Arena. In fact, one night in late November 2022, you could rename it LeBron James’ law.
The Lakers led 101-84 with just under 10 minutes remaining and 103-94 with around three minutes remaining. Yet, they allowed the Pacers (on the second night of a back-to-back) to make a late push and steal the ballgame, 116-115.
“Everything has to go wrong for you to lose a game like that. And everything went wrong,” LeBron said minutes after Pacers rookie Andrew Nembhard splashed home a ridiculous 3-pointer at the buzzer (over James’ aggressive closeout) — a high-arcing heave that could itself yield aerospatial research.
ANDREW NEMBHARD FOR THE WIN 🚨
Pacers come back from 17 down to stun the Lakers in LA 😳
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) November 29, 2022
The stunning defeat dropped the Lakers to 7-12 ahead of a tough stretch of schedule that begins with the feisty Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday followed by a six-game East Coast road trip against mainly playoff contenders.
When @DanWoikeSports asked if the Lakers' defense at the end required them to stick more to their principles or if plays like that will always be instinct, LeBron James used the question to dissect the final defensive possession: pic.twitter.com/jKyODA8Fk7
— Kyle Goon (@kylegoon) November 29, 2022
The Lakers firmly controlled the action through the first three quarters and built a hefty lead in the third quarter thanks to electric playmaking from Russell Westbrook and the continued dominance of Anthony Davis.
The wheels fell off in the fourth quarter. The Lakers’ decision-making, shot selection, and offensive cohesion worsened, their effort on the glass waned, and their stars came up short. In the final period, AD had just two field goal attempts, LeBron shot 2-of-8, and Westbrook coughed up numerous possessions, either via turnover or ill-advised shot attempt.
“We can’t be in situations where we’re throwing (Russ) the ball and everyone is standing and we’re dribbling out the clock, dribbling out the clock,” said Darvin Ham. “Now we’re waiting on someone to go 1-on-1 versus the world. That’s tough. That’s a huge responsibility to have to score in those situations.”
The Lakers couldn’t keep up with the Pacers in transition in crunch time (4Q fast-break points: Pacers 13, Lakers 2) and were generally outhustled. Los Angeles gave up four offensive boards in the final minute.
“We let them back in the game. Started messing with the game. The start of the fourth quarter, some tough shots led to some transition buckets — mainly 3s.”
Anthony Davis said the Lakers blown lead was not on Ham, and the Lakers have enough experience and "smart minds" to finish the game out. He lamented the Lakers' lack of effort down the stretch, particularly on the glass. https://t.co/6WZHsdIuhf
— Michael Corvo (@michaelcorvoNBA) November 29, 2022
“The biggest thing for us, again, is understanding how to play with a lead and again, we’ll go back and watch film,” Ham said. “Next time out, I’m sure I’ll do a much better job of keeping us organized.”
The Lakers have now failed to close out the Pacers, Blazers, and Sacramento Kings despite holding double-digit second-half leads. They continue to struggle with the same issues — rebounding, dialed-in effort, shot selection, offensive sloppiness — in tight situations.
“It was all self-inflicted wounds,” Anthony Davis said. “That’s one thing we talk about a lot – shooting ourselves in the foot. And everything that led up to this loss in their comeback, that was on us.”
"This one hurts." – Anthony Davis said rebounding and transition were their biggest challenges against the Pacers. pic.twitter.com/kWK0JkAQoa
— Spectrum SportsNet (@SpectrumSN) November 29, 2022
To make matters worse, LeBron suffered a sprained left ankle midway through the first quarter and temporarily went to the locker room. He returned and played 36 minutes, but seemed limited as the game wore on. He finished with 21 points on 8-of-22 shooting.
“It was better before it happened,” LeBron said when asked for an update on the sprain.
Hopefully, for the Lakers, those words don’t become an applicable epigram for a backbreaking moment in their 2022-23 season: the final minutes vs. Indiana.