'We can't waste any more time.' Lakers lose to Knicks, miss chance to reach .500
The Lakers hadn’t been in this exact spot since Oct. 20 last year, the last time their basketball team was one win away from evening their record at .500.
That was the second game of the regular season.
A lot has changed since then.
In that loss to the Clippers, Russell Westbrook missed all 11 of his shots, Patrick Beverley made only one in seven tries, and four of the five reserves who logged minutes are no longer on the roster.
But even after the Lakers turned over their roster and even after the energy within the locker room flipped completely around, one thing hasn’t changed.
The Lakers still aren’t at .500.
After winning three consecutive games, the Lakers missed out on a chance Sunday night to move into a tie for sixth place in the Western Conference, losing to the New York Knicks 112-108.
They’re now two games under .500 with 14 left to play, the loss dropping the Lakers (33-35) into a four-way tie for ninth place in the West.
“We have time, but we can’t waste any more time,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham said. “We can’t waste any more games.”
D’Angelo Russell, whose huge fourth quarter Friday closed out Toronto, stayed hot Sunday, making 13 of 19 for a season-high 33 points, but he was outdueled by his former teammate Julius Randle.
Randle scored 33 on 11 of 24 from the field and eight of 11 from the line, his aggression setting the tone for the Knicks (40-30), who were without Jalen Brunson.
And in the fourth quarter, R.J. Barrett’s determination to the basket gave the Lakers problems, his layup with 2:34 left putting the Knicks up 10.
The Lakers came back to make it a one-possession game in the final 20 seconds, but the team couldn’t get to a Knicks player to foul, letting 14 seconds rip off the clock.
Another former Laker, Josh Hart, made both free throws to ice the game.
Anthony Davis scored only 17 points, but he grabbed 16 rebounds.
“I played terrible,” Davis said. “Couldn’t find my shot: free throws, layups, everything. The guys did their job. I didn’t do my job tonight.”
Postgame, Ham said he thought a combination of missed shots, untimely errors on the defensive glass and the Knicks’ physicality were the big factors in the Lakers’ three-game winning streak ending.
“It’s basketball,” Austin Reaves said. “… Overall, I thought we competed well. Had a chance, but didn’t have enough. You win some, you lose some.”
LeBron James returned to the Lakers’ bench after missing the last two games while excused for medical reasons. Sunday, he was no longer wearing the protective walking boot on his injured right foot.
“Everything is going according to plan,” Ham said of James’ recovery.
Last week, James posted a video from an unknown remote location, joking about the paparazzi following him as a wild animal roamed past.
“I’ve lived through this with [Kobe Bryant] and Giannis [Antetokounmpo], these guys have a variety of ways, when you’re at that level, you have a variety of ways you can treat different injuries. And it’s also good for him to unplug a little bit. Not be detached necessarily, but just mentally get a little bit of a calming to everything that’s transpired over the year,” Ham said. “… It’s been a lot. So it’s not just about him getting healthy, it’s about him being in a good place mentally and spiritually so we get the best version of him when he returns.”
Until then, the Lakers are still very much in a fight even after briefly finding themselves in the top10 in the conference.
Problems emerged Sunday — missed shots, uneven chemistry, inconsistent physicality.
None of it changes the momentum the Lakers built at home during this stretch, multiple Lakers said.
“If we compete and stick to who we are as a team, we’ll be fine,” Reaves said.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.