Friday night was almost an amazing comeback win for the Lakers. Then overtime happened.
Down 119-110 with 34.1 seconds to go, Los Angeles mounted a furious comeback. Patrick Beverley made an easy layup. Doc Rivers inexplicably used Philly’s final timeout. Russell Westbrook got a steal. Anthony Davis made two free throws. Beverley got a steal. When Austin Reaves made a three with 12 seconds left, the lead was down to two points.
De’Anthony Melton split a pair of free throws, the Lakers called their last timeout, and Matisse Thybulle entered the game for defense. He immediately fouled Reaves behind the arc, who hit two of three free throws. After yet another Lakers steal — this time by Davis — AD was at the line with a chance to win the game. But he missed his last free throw, and the game went to overtime. And things went very badly for the Lakers.
Perhaps exhausted by their frenetic comeback, the Lakers couldn’t make a shot. They missed nine in a row — Westbrook missed five of those — and Philadelphia ended up winning by double digits, despite blowing a nearly unblowable lead.
It’s the third straight loss for the Lakers. But they should be heartened by the rally, the chance to go 3-3 on the road trip with a win in Detroit Sunday and the play of Westbrook in regulation, where he shot 4-of-9 and had a triple-double. The downside? They played LeBron James 44 minutes in a loss, three weeks before his 38th birthday, and the whole team ran out of gas in OT.
Despite the victory, the game may have been more concerning for the 76ers. They rallied in overtime, but they were one free throw away from losing when they were up nine with 34 seconds left. According to an NBA win probability calculator, their chances of winning should have been 100 percent. (Being up only 8 points would have left them with only a 99.9 percent chance.)
It’s troubling. This team and coach have a history of blowing big leads. Rivers is the only NBA coach to blow a 3-1 series lead three different times, with three different teams in the postseason. For Joel Embiid and the rest of the team, their Achilles’ heel has been turnovers. On Friday night, Embiid had seven and James Harden had five. The team had seven in the final 2:04 of the fourth quarter.
The Sixers aren’t a young team, and they aren’t integrating a lot of new players. They’ve been together for a while. And if they’re wilting under the pressure of a mid-December game, how are they going to deal with the pressure of the playoffs?