Lakers fail in final possession in loss to Sixers

Lakers lose yet another game that was right in their grasp.

They were right there.

That’s all I really hear in my head after head coach Darvin Ham said, “We were right there,” during a post-game interview. The Lakers fell short against the Philadelphia 76ers, 113-112, and suffered their third straight loss.

And again, it’s admirable that the Lakers as of late to see them play like this. For the most part, LeBron James is putting the team on his back. Russell Westbrook plays his heart out. And the role players are really exceeding our expectations, if anything. The way they’ve done this without Anthony Davis and then even after losing Lonnie Walker IV and Austin Reaves? It’s really something to give them credit for.

They were right there.

But there’s also the main reason why they’re 19-24. Late-game execution has really held them back. On the surface, it’s easy to point out that they’re pretty good at close games as they’re 3-3 on games decided by three points or fewer. The case looks better when pointed out that they’re 1-3 in overtime games.

But there are just way too many games where they simply lost because they can’t execute. They were up two in their first match-up against Sacramento with two minutes left but they never scored again as De’Aaron Fox took over. There’s that game against Indiana where they were leading by 17 with 10 minutes left and then had a complete meltdown that was punctuated by an Andrew Nembhard buzzer-beater. Lakers couldn’t make a clutch free throw against this same Sixers team in a miraculous comeback that ultimately fell short. They had a 13-point lead against the Celtics with under four minutes left and then lost the game in overtime.

They should’ve beaten the Charlotte Hornets but, again, they came out with no energy and had to resort to a late comeback that fell short (including an attempt at a game-winning play where LeBron lost his shoe). Then we had that double overtime marathon against Dallas.

And then we had Sunday night against the Sixers:

It’s easy to say that Darvin Ham should’ve called timeout. Up to that point, Westbrook mostly had a great game. Part of me thought that Westbrook wanted to one-up Joel Embiid after he played great defense against him on the other end. And Westbrook couldn’t even get a shot off as time quickly whittled down and it felt too late that he decided to pass on the shot (who knows if that ball was going to Troy Brown, Jr. or Wenyen Gabriel, both had also played well in that game).

Including Sunday night, I had mentioned 7 games that were… right there for the taking. That’s the difference between 19-24… and 26-17.

They were right there.

As for the game itself, the Lakers and the Sixers were just locked into a battle. The biggest gap in that game was 8 points. Sixers had that halfcourt precision and enough perimeter artillery. The Lakers were outstanding in the paint as usual (70-52 advantage) and on the break (18-5 Laker lead). Both teams had 9 turnovers each. Lakers played their A-game. It’s just frustrating because the Lakers have showed time and again that they can stay with good teams.

They were right there.

LeBron James finished with 35-8-10 while Russell Westbrook got a trip-dub with 20-14-11. Wenyen Gabriel once again gave the Lakers a boost from the bench with 14 points while Troy Brown, Jr. hit some big shots (including a three that cut the deficit to 113-112) on his way to 13 points.

On Philly’s side, Joel Embiid led the Sixers with 35 points and 11 boards. James Harden sliced the defense with 24 points and 13 assists; he also had 7 rebounds. Tyrese Maxey came off the bench with 16 points; he was huge down the stretch. And Georges Niang hit that back-breaking three that swung Philadelphia a 111-109 lead.

Despite the loss, congratulations are in order as LeBron James has reached 38,000 career points. Officially, he’s at 38,024 points so that means he’s only 363 points behind the all-time leading scorer, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. That’s just amazing. Also, Russell Westbrook’s triple-double gives him four for the season. They’re all off the bench and he now has the most triple-doubles off the bench in history. Incredible.

As for what’s next? The good news is that the Lakers can go ahead and get a chance immediately to erase this loss as they have a game against the Rockets on Monday night. While it sucks that they have a back-to-back, the Rockets are on one, too, as they had a game against the L.A. Clippers. Also, the Rockets are on a huge funk as they have lost 10 straight. Still, I don’t want to say that this should be an easy win just yet as I had just mentioned all the bad Laker losses but I do like their chances better on Monday.

But yes, the Lakers deserve to have this record they’re currently in. They feel like a young team with growing pains… and it’s just funny to describe that when they have LeBron, Westbrook, and Davis (when he’s playing) are all on the team.

They’d better turn “they were right there” to “they are there” very quickly.

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