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Lakers

Lakers suffer letdown in last-minute loss to Nets, as potential bigger problem looms

Lakers forward Anthony Davis draws a crowd of Nets during the fourth quarter of a game March 10 at Staples Center.
Lakers forward Anthony Davis draws a crowd of Nets during the fourth quarter of a game March 10 at Staples Center.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

A letdown was likely after the Lakers got through an intense weekend with wins against two of the best teams in the NBA.

Still, the Lakers fought back from a late deficit to give themselves a chance. Ultimately, it was not enough. A last-second three-pointer by Anthony Davis didn’t fall, and the Lakers lost to the Nets 104-102 on Tuesday at Staples Center.

“Anthony just made two threes,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “Thought we had the game won.”

LeBron James led the Lakers with 29 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists, making 12 of 22 shots, but only one of five free throws. Davis scored 26 points, making four of eight three-pointers. The Nets were led by Southern California native Spencer Dinwiddie, who scored 23 points and made all eight free throws he attempted.

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The loss was only the Lakers’ second in the last 13 games.

“We gotta be better,” James said. “They played some good basketball. They made us pay on offensive rebounding; we had some careless turnovers.

“… We just gotta be better and stay even keeled no matter what’s going on.”

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The specter of potentially having to play games without fans hovered over Tuesday night’s contest. Although a few more empty seats than normal dotted the arena, fans still packed Staples Center.

Protective changes made by the NBA included limiting media access by closing pre- and postgame locker rooms to media members and changing group interview procedures to move reporters a safe distance from players and coaches. Otherwise, teams were simply asked to practice common sense. They were reminded about proper hand washing. The Nets changed their popcorn procedures — individual bags rather than one big bag for everyone to dig through.

The game went on as normal.

For the Lakers it was a respite from an intense weekend, having just beaten two of the NBA’s best teams — the Milwaukee Bucks and Clippers. The Nets were an entirely different type of opponent. They entered the game seventh in the Eastern Conference with a 29-34 record, and having changed coaches over the weekend, but on a two-game winning streak.

LeBron James communicates with Anthony Davis during the fourth quarter of the Lakers’ loss to the Nets at Staples Center on March 10.
LeBron James communicates with Anthony Davis during the fourth quarter of the Lakers’ loss to the Nets at Staples Center on March 10.
(Luis Sinco / Luis Sinco)

The Lakers started the game shooting well — 52.2% from the field and 50% from three-point range in the first quarter.

The intensity of the previous two games was lacking, but there were moments the Lakers showed some fire. At the end of the first half, tied with less than 30 seconds left, James dived for a loose ball, which led to a dunk by Kyle Kuzma and a 58-56 lead at halftime.

Brooklyn took control in the third quarter, outscoring the Lakers 31-22 despite 12 points from Davis. The Nets made 12 of 20 shots and were led by Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, who had 11 points on four-for-five shooting.

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“We tried to turn it on a little too late,” guard Avery Bradley said.

The Nets led by seven to start the fourth quarter, but the Lakers were able to chip away at it late. With 54 seconds left and the Lakers trailing by three, Nets center DeAndre Jordan went to the line. He missed both attempts.

At the other end, James found Davis at the top of the key. Davis sank a three to tie the score and sent the crowd into a frenzy.

The Nets had gone more than three minutes without a field goal, but Dinwiddie hit an 18-footer for the lead.

During the Nets’ drought, the Lakers had more than one opportunity to tie or take the lead. Danny Green had a look from three, James had a look at the rim and Davis had looks too. He shot his final three with confidence but it rattled out.

“We shouldn’t wait or try to flip it,” Green said. “The key is to start out the way we’re supposed to start out and we didn’t. … We had some great looks at the end but it shouldn’t come down [to] the end.”


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