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LA chokes away critical game to Mavericks

The Los Angeles Lakers came into Friday with a great opportunity to continue to gain ground in the standings as they faced the Dallas Mavericks, who were without Luka Doncic.

After getting out to a 14-7 lead, the Lakers fell behind as they couldn’t guard the 3-point line. Dallas got red-hot from downtown, hitting 9-of-15 from that distance in the first half as it went up 62-54 at halftime. The Lakers battled back from a 14-point early third-quarter deficit to come within one with 2:21 left, only to see the Mavs push their lead back to nine at the end of the period.

Then came a big LA rally in the fourth quarter that put it up 109-105 in the final seconds — until a self-inflicted disaster struck.

With 7.2 seconds left, it looked like it was about to get a stop, but Anthony Davis committed an ill-advised foul on Maxi Kleber, which resulted in three successful free throws. Davis was fouled at the other end with an opportunity to give his team insurance, but he made just one of two foul shots.

With 6.7 seconds remaining in the game, the Lakers were very aware of Kyrie Irving, who had 38 points. They trapped him and made him get rid of the ball, and he passed the ball to Kleber, who was partially open beyond the 3-point line as Davis was out of position defensively. Kleber then hit the game-winning trey just before the buzzer to down LA, 111-110.

The Lakers ultimately only have themselves to blame for this loss. They shot just 19-of-31 from the free throw line and 25.0 percent from the 3-point line, and with a scant eight fast-break points, they failed to get the tempo in their favor.

The loss dropped them to 10th place in the Western Conference, although they’re still just two games behind the Mavs, who improved to sixth place.

If Los Angeles ends up missing the playoffs this season, it will look to this game as the one that got away.

Anthony Davis: B

Davis was somewhat quiet in the first half, as he often faced a second defender when he got the ball. But when he found some open space, he was very effective, going 4-of-5 from the field and scoring 10 points by halftime.

Eventually, Davis managed to reach 26 points for the game, and he did it partly by getting to the free throw line, where he converted 8-of-11 shots, while going 9-of-14 from the field and adding 10 rebounds.

But as mentioned previously, he cost the Lakers this game more than anyone else. His missed free throw in the final seconds was one of several missed free throws he had in the closing moments of a close game that they lost this season, and he simply has no excuse not to convert those foul shots.

Jarred Vanderbilt: b

Vanderbilt didn’t have a big impact in this game. He played just 20 minutes and finished with just four rebounds and seven points, as head coach Darvin Ham chose to go with Wenyen Gabriel instead of most of the fourth quarter.

Troy Brown Jr.: B

Brown went 2-of-4 from the field, with all four of his shot attempts coming beyond the arc. His hot shooting from that distance over the past several weeks has been a very welcome boon for a Lakers team that still needs more accurate 3-point shooting.

D’Angelo Russell: C+

Russell struggled offensively in the first half, going just 3-of-9 and missing all three of his 3-point attempts. He never got going at any point, as he finished shooting 5-of-17 overall and 0-of-6 from downtown.

However, he did an excellent job of distributing with 11 assists and zero turnovers for the game, even though he didn’t have the ball much in the fourth quarter.

Malik Beasley: B+

Beasley went 0-of-3 from downtown tonight, but even though he is still struggling from the outside, he did a good job of attacking the basket in this game. He shot 5-of-9 overall and scored a decent 10 points in 23 minutes, to go along with six rebounds.

Hopefully this game will serve as a model for him moving forward as far as how he should play when his 3-point shots aren’t going through the hoop.

Rui Hachimura: B/B+

In 16 minutes, Hachimura scored 10 points on 4-of-6 from the field while hitting both of his 3-point attempts. He even played some defense by getting two steals, which is something that seems like a bonus for him.

This was the fourth time in the last five games that he has been efficient offensively, and it is a very encouraging sign, given how up and down he has been since joining LA in late January.

Wenyen Gabriel: A

Gabriel was everywhere in this game, and he was the catalyst who helped give the Lakers a chance to win. He played some active defense after entering the game in the first quarter, blocking a shot near the end of the period, while the officials ruled another block attempt from him prior to that goaltending. He then got a steal early in the second quarter that led to a fast-break layup from Dennis Schroder.

The forward’s activity on the boards stood out big time, on both ends of the floor. He finished with 11 rebounds, plus nine points, two assists, two steals and two blocked shots.

Unfortunately, Gabriel also struggled from the free throw line, going just 3-of-6 from the charity stripe, and he missed two big ones with 5:43 left in the fourth quarter that could have put LA up by three.

Dennis Schroder: B+/A-

Schroder sparked the Lakers’ rally in the fourth quarter, especially as a scorer. He scored nine points in that frame and dished out two assists, giving him 15 points on 7-of-13 shooting, five assists and three assists for the game.

He was the team’s main ball-handler down the stretch instead of Russell, and good things happened when he had the ball, as the Lakers outscored the Mavs by 13 in the final period until those final 7.2 seconds that cost them the game.

Austin Reaves: B+/A-

Reaves continued to be ultra-efficient with 16 points on 5-of-8 shooting overall, to go along with five rebounds, two assists, one steal and one blocked shot. He struggled from the free throw line all game long, but he made two big ones late in the fourth quarter to help the Lakers’ cause.

Story originally appeared on LeBron Wire