At some point in the second half of the Lakers’ game here Friday night, part of the ceiling in the visitors’ locker room at the AT&T Center caved in from the pressure of a leak caused by the day’s persistent rain.
The ceiling tiles that crashed to the floor just happened to be right above LeBron James’ locker.
It added insult to injury as the Lakers lost their final matchup against the San Antonio Spurs this season 133-120. DeMar DeRozan finished with 36 points, nine assists and eight rebounds — his fourth game of 30 or more in as many games against the Lakers this season. His late-game heroics helped San Antonio outscore the Lakers by 23 in the fourth quarter.
“He has a tendency to play in that middle area to where you can’t really go double him because he can see the whole floor,” Lakers center JaVale McGee said. “And then he’s not in the paint and he’s not at the three [point line], so he’s in that little middle area and he’s efficient there too. So when you see that many shots going up, you would think that he would miss some, but he was hitting his shots today also, and I can’t say we weren’t playing good D. We were playing good D.”
The Lakers (15-10), who beat the Spurs (12-14) on Wednesday at Staples Center behind 42 points from James, lost the other three games in the season series. James had 35 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds Friday but finished with a plus-minus of minus-19.
“We wanted to even the series with this team but give all the credit to them,” James said. “They executed very well. Their second unit came in and gave them a lot of life in that fourth quarter and turned it around.”
James shot nine free throws, half as many as DeRozan, and was called for four personal fouls to DeRozan’s one.
“The three quarters were very good,” James said when asked about the Lakers’ defense. “I think it was just some ...”
He paused again to swallow a thought.
“Defensively we were good,” James said. “We had some very good possessions that just didn’t go our way at times, man.”
By halftime James had 24 points on nine-of-16 shooting with eight assists and seven rebounds, and the Lakers led 72-68. As the game progressed, however, he grew increasingly frustrated with the officiating. On one play, Spurs center Jakob Poeltl put his shoulder into James, knocking the Lakers star onto the floor. The result: James’ first foul. He sat on the floor laughing in disbelief after the whistle. Poeltl, meanwhile, made his shot and the ensuing free throw.
James was asked after the game what it would take for a block or charge call to go his way.
“I have no idea,” James said. “I have no idea.”
Still, the Lakers had control for most of the game. They led by 12 with 11:48 left in the fourth quarter. Then Poeltl and forward Davis Bertans helped the Spurs put together a run and take the lead with 5:42 left.
Bertans made four three-pointers in the fourth and scored all 13 of his points in the quarter. He and Poeltl scored 23 points together in the fourth while the Lakers scored 21.
Moments later, James pulled up for a mid-range shot with the Lakers down one. DeRozan blocked his shot and his hand came down onto James’ face. James grabbed his face in pain and argued his case to the officials, but no foul was called.
From there the Spurs extended their lead. DeRozan hit three consecutive baskets for six points in the span of 64 seconds to seal the win.
“We played well enough to win that game for three quarters,” Lakers coach Luke Walton said. “And then they just took over in that fourth, guys. We did some nice things. We put DeRozan on the line too much. I loved the pace we were playing with until the fourth, which we had zero fastbreak points after we had been using that as a big part of our game.”
Before the game, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich expressed gratitude that he wouldn’t have to face James again during the regular season.
The Lakers might be just as happy not to see the Spurs again.
Follow Tania Ganguli on Twitter @taniaganguli