Luka Doncic kept his nose closed. LeBron James grabbed his face. Tim Hardaway Jr. threw his hands in the air. And Troy Brown Jr. appropriately spent the final moment of regulation on the ground.
In a physical game with no expected whistles, the Lakers and the Mavericks battled in double overtime on Thursday night, and while Dallas continued to make big plays, the Lakers could never close the door.
LeBron James had a three-point shot on rim and another bounced off the iron as he tried to make the big plays for the Lakers that Doncic made for the Mavericks.
The Lakers lost 119-115, the weight of so many missed shots and free throws too much to overcome.
It is the Lakers’ second consecutive loss after winning the previous five.
Brown’s potential winning three tries at the end of regulation came long after Hardaway was found to have made contact with his shooting hand. Then, at the end of the first overtime, James pleaded for a foul call after his reverse on the rim was stopped by Christian Wood.
Official Josh Tiven told a pool reporter that Hardaway “gets a piece of the ball on the closeout and then makes a high-five contact, which is legal and the play was rightfully not called.”
Between the late game drama and the first overtime, the NBA’s leading scorer, Doncic, hit big three-point shots to tie the game. And in the end, those plays – and his way of playing – were the difference.
“He did what Luka does,” said Lakers coach Darvin Ham. “He made the shot. I kick myself. In that case I need to coach a little better. Should have blitzed him.
Russell Westbrook scored 28, James had 24 and three other Lakers finished in double digits led by Wenyen Gabriel’s 14.
Doncic led the Mavericks with 35 points, 14 rebounds and 13 assists. Wood had a double-double and five blocks, and Spencer Dinwiddie scored eight of his 17 in the two overtimes.
“Took a hard shot,” Westbrook said. “Simple as that.”
The Lakers shot five of 17 in the two overtime periods, with James missing all of his shots.
Pregame, the talk turned to the ways the Lakers are looking to improve their roster by exploring veteran free agents. But how much better can they be? That depends a bit on the moment.
In Thursday’s first quarter, the Lakers looked like they needed a massive transfusion of the roster, with Dallas ramping up a helpless defense for 36 points — echoing Dallas’ third-quarter 51-point Christmas Day that defined the first 12 minutes .
But the Lakers defense tightened, with Westbrook’s intensity on Doncic setting the tone.
Slowly, the Lakers cut into the deficit that was as much as 19 points, eventually pushing through in the fourth before Dallas quickly grabbed a small lead.
But three-pointers from Westbrook and Gabriel and a layup from Dennis Schroder gave the Lakers a two-point lead in the final two minutes.
With the Lakers leading later in the fourth, Hardaway missed a three-pointer, opening the door for the Lakers to tie the score at the free throw line.
After a review took Schroder off the line and put Westbrook there, the crowd murmured. But as James tried to silence the fans, Westbrook hit two free throws to put the Lakers up to third – just enough to keep Doncic from beating them at the end of the fourth inning.
But the lack of shots – James missed all seven of his three and the team went 10 for 40 – meant the Lakers couldn’t give themselves much room for error.
And Thursday was just too much of it.
As the Lakers continue to weigh trading options, the team continues to seek help with free choice.
The Lakers, according to sources with knowledge but unauthorized to speak publicly, are expected to receive veterans centers DeMarcus Cousins and Meyers Leonard on Friday.
Yahoo and the Athletic reported scheduled workouts for the first time, respectively.
Cousins, who signed with the Lakers in 2019, suffered a knee injury before he could play for the franchise. He has since played for the Rockets, Clippers, Bucks (with Ham), and Nuggets.
Leonard has not played in an NBA game since January 9, 2021. In March 2021, Leonard was fined $50,000 for using an anti-Semitic slur during a livestream broadcast where he played a video game. He was suspended for a week and apologized.
“My ignorance of its history and how offensive it is to the Jewish community is absolutely no excuse and I was just wrong,” Leonard wrote on Instagram at the time. He was later traded to Oklahoma City and released.
Since his last appearance, Leonard has had shoulder and ankle surgeries.
Ham would not “confirm or deny” the workouts.
“At the end of the day, we’re constantly looking for what’s out there and just aware of it,” he said pregame Thursday. ‘There’s nothing else. That doesn’t mean people are going to make it to our selection.
Ham said, “It would be irresponsible for us not to see what’s out there.”
It will help bring back Austin Reaves, Lonnie Walker IV and Patrick Beverley who missed Thursday’s game due to illness. And of course the biggest step will come once Anthony Davis can return.
Until then, whether they need a little or a lot of help will change with the moment.
This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.