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 the previous five.
Brown Jr.’s game-winning three attempt came up well short after it appeared Hardaway Jr. made contact with his shooting hand. And then, at the end of the first overtime, James argued for a foul call after his game-winning reverse got 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 make 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 get their roster better by exploring veteran free agents. But how much better? That kinda depends on the moment.
In the first quarter Thursday, the Lakers looked like they needed a massive roster transfusion, Dallas carving a helpless defense up for 36 points – echoes from Dallas’ 51-point third quarter on Christmas defining the first 12 minutes.
But the Lakers defense tightened from that point on, with Westbrook’s intensity on Luka Doncic setting the tone.
Slowly, the Lakers carved into a Mavs lead that was as great 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, Tim Hardaway Jr. missed a go-ahead three, opening the door for the Lakers to tie the game at the free-throw line.
After a review moved Schroder off the line and put Westbrook there, the crowd murmured. But with James trying to get them silent, 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 Lakers’ 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’s played for the Rockets, Clippers, Bucks (with Ham) and Nuggets.
Leonard hasn’t played in a NBA game since Jan. 9, 2021. In March of 2021, Leonard was fined $50,000 for using an anti-Semitic slur during a livestream broadcast where he was playing a video game. He was also suspended a week.
“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.
When will LeBron James become NBA’s all-time leading scorer?
A look at LeBron James’ pursuit of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the all-time scoring record.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar points: 38,387
LeBron James points: 37,965
Points from record: 423 points
Projected games until record: 16
Projected record date: Feb. 11 vs. Warriors
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.