In one of the Lakers’ lowest moments this season, the ball left the court behind the three-point line above his left elbow and Andrew Nembhard made a game-winner.
That was on November 28th, a game the Lakers wanted to forget.
Now they will think.
“It’s like Indiana all over again,” said a disappointed Darvin Ham.
With a chance to gain precious ground in the Western Conference playoff race, the Lakers suffered another setback with a last-second three-pointer from that spot — a shot by Maxi Kleber on Friday night.
“It’s frustrating,” Austin Reaves said.
A 111-110 loss on Friday would have been unfortunate enough, but with the team having just lost in Houston for precautionary reasons with Anthony Davis suffering a foot injury earlier this year, the Lakers are officially headed in the wrong direction. .
It’s the first time in over a month that the Lakers have lost back-to-back games.
“If you don’t mind losing games that really matter, what’s the point of playing?” Reaves said.
The Lakers have been clear about their strategy over the last month, prioritizing health before the standings. With no restrictions, no games to hold anyone back, on Friday, the Lakers had just one option.
Playing against the Mavericks, a team that is one game behind in the standings entering Friday’s game, the Lakers had a chance to make a real move. Minnesota, Golden State, New Orleans and Portland lost, giving the team a precious opportunity to earn a berth.
They didn’t take it.
After trailing by 14, the Lakers battled back to within five in the fourth before the Mavericks mounted a comeback.
Kleber’s three free throws (after a three-pointer by Davis) made it a one-point game in the final minute.
Davis split two free throws to give the Mavericks a chance to win or tie.
There would be no overtime, forcing the Lakers to take the ball out of Kyrie Irving’s hands, but Kleber drove in and dunked the shot as the horn hit.
Davis finished with 26 points and 10 rebounds and five other Lakers scored at least 10 on a night where the team was badly outpaced by Irving and the Mavericks from the three-point line.
Dallas made 11 more three-pointers than the Lakers, and also missed 12 free throws to four for the Mavericks, who were without Luka Doncic.
Irving scored 38 to lead Dallas.
After the loss, which dropped the Lakers to the slimmest of playoff spots ahead of Utah, the Lakers said they need to play like a team that needs everyone.
Dallas Mavericks players have turned to center Maxi Kleber after he made a three-pointer in the last buzzer beater against the Lakers.
(Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press)
But with restrictions on whether Davis can play back-to-back, that’s obviously harder to do.
That strategy comes at a cost, and one team around the Western Conference seems willing to pay.
By emphasizing potential postseason health over regular-season wins, teams like the Lakers, Clippers and Mavericks sacrifice critical games in the thick of the playoff race.
It’s not completely off the radar. At shootaround on Friday, Dennis Schroder told reporters he had his eyes on a specific spot — outside of the play-in tournament.
“I think the way we are as a team right now, the chemistry, I think, is in a perfect place,” Schroder said. “As I said, we have to try to get number 6, that is our goal and our desire. And then go from there.”
Lakers coach Darvin Ham, right, talks with guard Dennis Schroder during the first half Friday.
(Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press)
However, No. 6 would open the playoffs on the road.
Ham, who has more than 25 years of NBA experience as a player and coach, has seen a change in favor of health as he enters the season that matters most to teams.
“I don’t think it’s completely changed, but I think health is more of a priority than (starting),” Ham said before Friday’s game. “… And the playoffs, I don’t want to say it’s overrated, but at some point you’re going to have to win on the road to be a world champion, so you’ve got to be strong, healthy, confident and playing. at a good pace
“And wherever you play, you give yourself a chance. But being on home court, I’ve seen teams many times, many, many postseasons have home court advantage and it doesn’t matter, because they dropped those home games.”
History, however, says that teams that have to fight uphill in the playoffs are at a huge disadvantage.
The 1995 Houston Rockets are the lowest-ranked team to win a title after starting the playoffs sixth in the West.
The 1999 New York Knicks made the playoffs as the eighth seed in a lockout season.
The Lakers’ starting hopes aren’t tied individually to whether or not Davis is on the court in back-to-back games (the Lakers play the Jazz and Clippers in the back-to-back of the year).
LeBron James continues to thrive, with Schroder saying he’s seen James go through multiple workouts every day in an effort to return.
Getting back on the season clock in time would be a big boost.
Ahead of the match, Ham warned against setting specific win/loss goals for the team over the last dozen games.
“Each game is its own entity, and we have to approach it that way,” Ham said. “Making sure we maximize it and making sure every day we improve as much as we can as we try to reach our goal. But they have to be taken one at a time.
“We can’t get overwhelmed where we have 12 left and we have to get (that number of wins), and you start to let things go. Our priority has been to stay in the moment and take it one by one.”
On Friday, however, the Mavericks took over.