There was a two-game interruption of sorts in what had been a positive flow for the Lakers on this six-game trip that started with two consecutive wins that were followed by two losses in a row that came in the wake of illnesses and injuries.
They were essentially back whole Friday night, with Anthony Davis and LeBron James returning to the fold, but even with their eventual profound play, the Lakers lost some steam when the tense game reached overtime of what became a 133-122 defeat to the 76ers at Wells Fargo Center.
An 18-point deficit early in the fourth quarter didn’t detour the Lakers. A nine-point deficit with 34.1 seconds left didn’t stop the Lakers.
But after the game went into overtime tied 120-120, the Lakers didn’t seem to have much left in the tank, missing their first nine shots, falling into a hole they were unable to climb out of this time and sending them to a third consecutive loss and a 2-3 record on a trip that will finish at Detroit on Sunday.
“I told the team that as disappointed as I am that we didn’t get the win, I still can have a good meal and sleep like a baby tonight because of the way we competed,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham said. “We did not quit. We did not give up. There was a point in the game where we could have just folded our tent. But we kept scratching away, kept digging deep, kept making plays, one stop after another one and put ourselves in a position to win the game.”
It was an uneven start for Davis, who had missed the last game in Toronto on Wednesday night recovering from flu-like symptoms and played just eight minutes in the game at Cleveland because of that illness. He had three fouls in the first quarter against the 76ers and picked up his fourth just 2 minutes 47 seconds into the third.
But Davis stepped up in the fourth quarter, scoring 21 points, the sixth 20-plus-point quarter of his career and his first since he had 20 points in the third quarter against Memphis on Oct. 29, 2019.
He finished the game with 31 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks.
“It’s always tough to get a rhythm and everything when you’re in foul trouble,” Davis said. “I was in foul trouble all night. But it’s just continuing to fight. And my teammates did a good job of putting me in situations to score the basketball.”
It was a difficult start for James, who had missed the Raptors game with left ankle soreness. James missed his first six shots and first three three-pointers. He finished with 23 points on nine-for-22 shooting, one-for-eight from three-point range and four-for-eight from the free-throw line.
“We came here and played Lakers basketball for sure,” James said. “We competed. We shared the ball. We defended at a high level. … We understand that we can have a really good trip if we close out the right way in Detroit on Sunday. So, we look forward to that matchup.”
With Austin Reaves (25 points), Russell Westbrook (12 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists) and an effective zone defense, the Lakers stayed within striking distance and eventually had a chance at a victory.
Joel Embiid (38 points, 12 rebounds, five assists), De’Anthony Melton (33 points) and James Harden (28) had made it difficult for the Lakers.
Still, down 119-110 with 34.1 seconds left in the fourth, the Lakers struck.
Reaves was fouled while shooting a three-pointer, but he made his first two free throws and missed the third.
“You always got to make that one,” Reaves said, “especially under those circumstances.”
After another 76ers turnover, the Lakers got another opportunity when Davis was fouled.
But he made just one of two free throws to tie the score at 120-120.
“The guys are thinking, I’m thinking, ‘Oh, they fouled AD. They tricked this one off.’ Go up and make the first,” Davis said. “Even with AR [Austin Reaves] too. … That one was tough. I put a lot of pressure on myself to make free throws and then especially in that type of situation. I’m still kind of shocked that I missed it.”