LOS ANGELES — Despite a disappointing collapse, the Lakers were very, very, very nearly home free.
They were spared when Indiana’s Myles Turner missed a 27-footer with 5.6 seconds remaining. But the rebounding problems they’ve had all season sprung up again when Tyrese Haliburton managed to grab the miss near the top of the arc, took a few dribbles then whipped the ball to Andrew Nembhard at the perimeter.
The 22-year-old rookie flushed it true from the 3-point line as time expired and a game the Lakers (7-12) led by 17 points in the fourth quarter, led for the entire second half until the bitter end, crumbled in their hands. The Pacers (12-8), who made six of their 17 3-pointers during the fourth quarter, stunned them for a 116-115 win that was hard to see coming and even harder to watch.
Victory seemed assured early in the fourth, especially given the efforts of Russell Westbrook, who had 24 points (17 in the second half) on 10-for-18 shooting to go with six assists. On a night when Lakers fans were watching to see if the grass is greener in Indiana with a popularly discussed trade package of Turner and Buddy Hield, Westbrook managed to steal the spotlight for himself.
There was the shimmy. The rock-the-baby. The hammy between-the-legs dribbles as he isolated and the crowd. The mean mugging – but even more often, the smile.
They needed the heroics more badly than usual. LeBron James was woefully cold (8 for 22 from the field, 21 points) while Anthony Davis couldn’t bury shots in the second half. But one of the most memorable shots of the game was Westbrook’s: a one-footed jumper at the end of the 23-second clock that took a high bounce straight up off the rim before getting a generous home-court roll with 1:45 remaining.
Where the Lakers came up short was the glass, giving up four offensive rebounds in the final minute alone. Davis had a chance to put the Lakers up by three, but he missed a critical free throw. Haliburton and James traded baskets before the Pacers got the ball with 20 seconds remaining.
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James in particular got off to a rip-roaring start, knocking down 10 of the Lakers’ first 16 points. But the team had a first-quarter scare when he rolled his left ankle in the sixth minute, checking out of the game and briefly heading to the locker room with trainer Mike Mancias. But James wound up returning in the second quarter.
Davis was the rock on which the Lakers’ offense relied throughout the first half, however, starting slow with his own scoring as he passed out of double-teams for five first-half assists. As the game progressed, he found more openings underneath the basket against Turner. His only miss of the first half came via a Turner block, but Davis regathered and finished with a hook shot over the rangy big man.
The fans at Crypto.com Arena seemed in a particularly rowdy mood for a Monday night game. A few fans used the fan cam to showcase beer-chugging exploits, including one woman doing so from a prosthetic leg. Jamie Murry of Downey became the first fan to hit a half-court shot for a $75,000 prize at a Lakers game since January 2020, celebrating with a griddy and hugs from half of the players on the Lakers’ bench.
Meanwhile, it was the rare game in which the fans were watching the opponents in the box score as closely as the home team. Turner finished with 15 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks. Hield had 15 points and four rebounds, but he was just 1 for 6 from 3-point range.
More to come on this story.
— NBA (@NBA) November 29, 2022
“I have to do a better job at keeping us organized.” – Darvin Ham takes responsibility for Lakers losing to the Pacers. pic.twitter.com/oRXAtJhn9F
— Spectrum SportsNet (@SpectrumSN) November 29, 2022