By Dave McMenaminESPN staff writer3 minute chapter
Sitting in front of his locker after the game, Los Angeles Lakers star Anthony Davis repeated time and time again how hard it was to stomach Friday night’s 111-110 loss to the Dallas Mavericks at the buzzer.
Tough, because his layup wasn’t enough of a deterrent to stop Mavs forward Maxi Kleber from hitting a game-winning three with 0.2 seconds left. Tough because Kleber’s shot was preceded by Davis going 1-2 from the foul line with 6.7 seconds left, and he couldn’t give LA the three-point cushion that would have at least made Kleber’s shooting force in overtime instead of winning it outright.
Hard because just before that, with 7.2 seconds left, the Lakers up by four, Davis fouled Kleber on a 3-point attempt, and Kleber drained all three free throws to pull Dallas within one.
“I already came in and told them the last game was my fault,” said Davis, who has taken the blame twice in the Lakers’ last four games, the other loss coming in Houston when he had to sit out because of a lingering leg injury.
And tough, Davis said, because on a night when four other teams around L.A. — Golden State, Minnesota, New Orleans and Portland — all lost, the Lakers failed to capitalize.
“It’s tough across the board,” Davis said after his 26 points and 10 rebounds went to waste.
Instead, all the momentum shifted to the Mavs. The Mavs played on the road without Luka Doncic and welcomed Kyrie Irving back to the lineup after missing three games with a sore right leg.
The win moved Dallas to No. 6 in the Western Conference at 36-35, and they took the season series against LA 2-1.
The Lakers are 10th in the West at 34-37, two full games behind Dallas with 11 games remaining, but it might as well be three games because the Mavs now own the breaker.
As painful a night as it was for Davis, it was just as thrilling for Kleber, who nearly cost the Mavs the game in San Antonio on Wednesday by throwing a full-court inbounds out of bounds with 1.8 seconds left in regulation, then blew the assignment to free up Keldon Johnson for a lob to send it into OT.
Kleber said in a courtside interview after the game that Irving — who scored 38 points and assisted Kleber on the final shot — told him, “It’s redemption” for the near miss in San Antonio.
Wenyen Gabriel, who had nine points and 11 rebounds off the bench to help erase a 14-point Dallas lead to help LA win, provided equally uplifting support for Davis.
“I mean, AD is our leader,” Gabriel said of putting the blame on Davis. “He’s our best player right now and it just shows that taking responsibility as the best player. It’s something that’s important for continuity as a team and trust in each other and of course we trust AD. It was just a moment. Of course it’s not not just about AD, but him taking responsibility for it is important instead of pointing the finger at chemistry going forward.”
The Lakers host the Orlando Magic (28-42) on Sunday, the first of four more home games before leaving LA for a four-game road trip.
Time is running out for this Lakers team. A congested West has kept them going, but Friday brought to mind other near misses, like when Davis missed late free throws in an overtime loss at Philadelphia or when he hit another free throw in the final minute and Indiana won at the buzzer. 3 from almost the exact same spot on the floor that Kleber launched.
The Lakers have been digging themselves out of a hole since they started 2-10. Just when it looked like they had a respite, winning six of eight since the All-Star break, they’ve now lost three of four and are slipping back at the worst possible time.
“We’re missing our opportunities, for sure. It’s frustrating,” Davis said.
But he added: “We still have an opportunity to do something special, the way we started.”