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Lakers

Five takeaways from the Lakers’ 138-134 overtime loss to the Houston Rockets

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Rockets forward P.J. Tucker, left, and Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma chase a loose ball on Jan. 19.
(Eric Christian Smith / Associated Press)

Josh Hart threw a pass toward Kyle Kuzma, who had James Harden draped around him. The pass went off Kuzma’s hands and out of bounds. The Lakers teammates walked back toward the other side of the court together, Kuzma with his arm around Hart.

About 20 minutes later in the locker room after the game, Kuzma took responsibility for the turnover, saying he should have caught the ball. Hart sat nearby with a vacant expression. He had trouble remembering some of the details of the game, but that play haunted him.

“I turned the ball over at the end,” Hart said. “We were down two with the opportunity to tie it or go ahead and I turned the ball over. Point blank that’s where my mind is. I messed up on that one. That’s where my mind is right now.”

The words “Pack Mentality” were written on a nearby whiteboard in blue marker.

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There have been times this season when the Lakers bickered among themselves in the face of adversity. They’ll now face the Warriors without their three best playmakers, and that pack mentality will be all the more important.

Here are five takeaways from the Lakers’ 138-134 overtime loss to the Houston Rockets.

1. This is a more resilient bunch than it has been at times earlier in the season. The game seemed headed for disaster for the Lakers after the Rockets went on a 15-0 run to cut their deficit to 2. But to the Lakers’ credit, they recovered. The Rockets never led the game until overtime.

“We got back to our game plan,” Ivica Zubac said. “We started doing the little things that coach has told us to do. We were playing smart on offense. We had some turnovers but we kept it down in the court. I really thought we were going to win that game but that three-point shot off the glass from Harden was tough.”

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2. After shoot-around Saturday morning, Luke Walton quipped that a successful night against Harden would be keeping him under 50 points. Incredibly, Harden scored 48 points, 41 in regulation, and it’s fair to say the Lakers had a pretty successful night against him.

Of course, the danger with someone like Harden is that in crunch time he can do exactly what he did Saturday night. He hit two three-pointers in the game’s final minute — the second banked in — and helped the Rockets get within striking distance of overtime.

3. Zubac is a tremendous free-throw shooter, it turns out. He became the first Lakers player to shoot more than seven free throws in a game and make all of them, making all nine he took.

“I just clear my mind,” he said. “I can’t hear anything around me. I don’t see anything but the rim. I do my routine. Everything I do as usual and just shoot it.”

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4. Losing Lonzo Ball had to be emotionally devastating for the Lakers, which likely led to the Rockets’ initial run. They are already without two of their best playmakers, and are now down to backup options in Brandon Ingram and Lance Stephenson. Ball will have an MRI Sunday to determine the severity of his left ankle sprain; X-rays returned negative for fractures. He will almost certainly miss some time with the injury.

5. Ingram scored 11 points in overtime, but he had an opportunity to prevent overtime with his defense on Eric Gordon. Gordon hit the game-tying shot at the end of regulation.

“I think I’m kicking myself for not stepping over and being able to get a better contest on the shot,” Ingram said. “I think if I would have stepped over, I don’t think he would’ve had anywhere to go, to shoot the basketball or to drive the basketball, so I put that one on me.”

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tania.ganguli@latimes.com

Follow Tania Ganguli on Twitter @taniaganguli


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