Lakers can’t close out Mavericks in physical game, fall in double OT

Los Angeles Lakers' LeBron James (6) is defended by Dallas Mavericks' Dwight Powell (7) and Davis Bertans (44) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Jan. 12, 2023, in Los Angeles.  (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Lakers’ LeBron James (6) is defended by Dallas Mavericks’ Dwight Powell (7) and Davis Bertans (44) during the first half on Thursday at Crypto.com Arena. (Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

Luka Doncic held his nose. LeBron James grabbed at his face. Tim Hardaway Jr. threw his hands in the air. And Troy Brown Jr. spent the final moment of regulation, fittingly, on the ground.

In a physical game without some expected whistles, the Lakers and the Mavericks fought into double overtime Thursday night, and while Dallas kept making big plays, the Lakers couldn’t ever close the door.

LeBron James had one three-point shot rim out and another bounce off the iron as he tried to make the big plays for the Lakers that Doncic was making for the Mavericks.

The Lakers lost 119-115, the weight of so many missed shots and free throws too much to overcome.

It’s the Lakers’ second straight loss after the team had won its previous five.

Brown’s potential winning three attempt at the end of regulation came up well short after it appeared Hardaway made contact with his shooting hand. And then, at the end of the first overtime, James argued for a foul call after his reverse was stopped at the rim by Christian Wood.

Official Josh Tiven told a pool reporter that Hardaway Jr. “gets a piece of the ball on the closeout and then does some high five contact, which is legal and that play was correctly no called.”

In between the late-game drama and the first overtime stood Doncic, the NBA’s leading scorer hitting massive three-point shots to equalize.

“He did what Luka does,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham said after the loss. “He made the shot. I’m kicking myself. I need to coach a little better in that instance. Should have blitzed him.”

Russell Westbrook scored 28, James added 24 and three other Lakers finished in double figures, led by Wenyen Gabriel’s 14.

Doncic led the Mavericks with 35.

“Made a tough shot,” Westbrook said. “Simple as that.”

Pregame, the talk was about the ways the Lakers are looking to improve their roster by exploring veteran free agents. But how much? That kind of depends on the moment.

In the first quarter Thursday, the Lakers looked as if they needed a massive roster transfusion, Dallas carving a helpless defense up for 36 points — echoes from Dallas’ 51-point third quarter on Christmas Day defining the first 12 minutes.

But the Lakers’ defense tightened, with Westbrook’s intensity on Doncic setting the tone.

Slowly, the Lakers carved into the deficit that was as high as 19 points, finally pushing ahead in the fourth before Dallas quickly grabbed a slight edge back.

But three-pointers from Westbrook and Gabriel and a layup from Dennis Schroder gave the Lakers a two-point lead in the final two minutes.

With the Lakers up one later in the fourth, Hardaway missed a go-ahead three, opening the door for the Lakers to tie the score at the free-throw line.

Dallas Mavericks' Tim Hardaway Jr. shoots a 3-pointer over Lakers' Troy Brown Jr.

Dallas Mavericks’ Tim Hardaway Jr. (11) shoots a 3-pointer over Lakers’ Troy Brown Jr. (7) in overtime on Thursday at Crypto.com Arena. (Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

After a review moved Schroder off the line and put Westbrook there, the crowd murmured. But with James trying to silence the fans, Westbrook hit two free throws to put the Lakers up three — just enough to make sure Doncic couldn’t beat them at the end of the fourth.

But the lack of shot-making — James missed all seven of his threes and the team went 10 for 40 — meant the Lakers couldn’t give themselves much room for error.

And Thursday, there was just too much of it.

While the Lakers will continue to weigh trade options, the team is continuing to look for help in free agency.

The Lakers, according to sources with knowledge but unauthorized to speak publicly, are expected to host veteran centers DeMarcus Cousins ​​and Meyers Leonard on Friday.

Yahoo and the Athletic first reported the scheduled workouts, respectively.

Cousins, who signed with the Lakers in 2019, suffered a knee injury before he could play for the franchise. Since, he has played for the Rockets, Clippers, Bucks (with Ham) and Nuggets.

Leonard hasn’t played in a NBA game since Jan. 9, 2021. In March 2021, Leonard was fined $50,000 for using an antisemitic slur during a livestream broadcast in which he was playing a video game. He was suspended a week and apologized.

“My ignorance about its history and how offensive it is to the Jewish community is absolutely not an excuse and I was just wrong,” Leonard wrote on Instagram at the time. He was later traded to Oklahoma City and released.

Since he last played, Leonard has undergone shoulder and ankle surgeries.

Ham wouldn’t “confirm or deny” the workouts.

“At the end of the day, we’re constantly looking for what’s out there and just being aware,” he said pregame Thursday. “There’s nothing else. That doesn’t mean people are going to make our roster.”

Ham said “it would be irresponsible for us not to see what’s out there.”

Getting Austin Reaves, Lonnie Walker IV and Patrick Beverley, who missed Thursday’s game with an illness, back will help. And the biggest move, of course, will come once Anthony Davis is able to return.

Until then, whether they need a little or a lot of help will kind of change by the moment.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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