Loss is just the tip of it for Lakers
The snowflakes blew lightly across town, par for the course this time of year here, and the Lakers packed appropriately, unveiling quite a display of thick winter jackets, colorful cashmere sweaters and black leather gloves.
But they left their defense at home.
The Lakers became unglued in the fourth quarter and lost to the Indiana Pacers, 118-117, on a last-second tip-in by forward Troy Murphy that sent Conseco Fieldhouse into a Tuesday night tizzy.
Long before the Lakers felt a postgame chill while boarding the team bus, they were abandoned by their source of inspiration this season, a defense ranked among the league leaders in virtually every statistical category.
Inspiration turned to desperation as the Pacers (7-10) picked them apart with several drives to the basket on the way to overcoming a 16-point deficit in the fourth quarter.
Add to it an updated version of Murphy’s Law -- let a bad team stick around long enough, and bad things will happen.
Pacers guard Marquis Daniels airballed a wild reverse layup attempt with 1.9 seconds left, but Murphy was there for a left-handed tap that pranced around the rim before falling into the hoop as time ran out.
Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said the play was “fortuitous.” Pacers Coach Jim O’Brien called it “special . . . a great, great feeling for everyone who is a Pacer.” Kobe Bryant simply hoped the ball would have fallen through more cleanly to allow some sort of a Lakers rebuttal.
Whatever the perspective, the Lakers (14-2) failed to keep pace with the franchise-best 16-1 start of the 2001-02 team. Instead, they fell to a Pacers team that had lost five of its last six.
It certainly looked good for the Lakers after Trevor Ariza and Jordan Farmar sparked a 17-0 run in the last 2:28 of the third quarter to provide a 101-86 advantage. The lead swelled briefly to 16 before the Pacers came rumbling back.
The Lakers posted 30-36-35 across the first three quarters, but were outscored in the fourth, 32-16. The Pacers banged through their interior for a surprising six offensive rebounds in the quarter, none more important than Murphy’s tap, his 17th rebound.
“That’s what happens when you put yourself in a position against a team that we should have beat by 10 or more points,” forward Lamar Odom said. “We had them down 16 in the fourth. That was our first letdown of the season.”
The Lakers were deflated in other areas too.
They were awarded more than double the free throws of the Pacers but could only partly capitalize, making 33 of 45 (73.3%). The Pacers made 20 of 21 (95.2%).
The Lakers had only 18 assists to the Pacers’ 27, and they were crushed in offensive rebounds, 19-8.
The signs of an upset were there from the start.
The Lakers surrendered 61 points in the first half and were fortunate to hold a five-point lead at the time.
Slow-moving center Rasho Nesterovic seemed to be on his way to a career night, burning the Lakers for 14 points by the midpoint of the third quarter. Danny Granger wound up with 32 points.
Bryant, for his part, thumped himself in the head after allowing Daniels to slip behind him for a dunk.
Bryant finished with a team-high 28 points but was short on an 18-footer from the left side with 14.9 seconds left.
Then the Lakers’ defense let them down one last time.
“We could have done much better, obviously, defensively,” Bryant said. “We’re not happy about that. We’ve got to get back on track.”