LOS ANGELES, California— If you looked at the two team’s records coming in, the Los Angeles Lakers (22-10) and the Washington Wizards (11-17) matchup might have looked like a total mismatch. But a few factors made this game intriguing from the jump; first, the injury to Anthony Davis makes the Lakers a seemingly easier target. Secondly, the Wizards have been a different team since they shuffled their starting lineup; they had won four straight games since inserting Mortiz Wagner and Garrison Matthews into the starting five.
It seemed like they would Lakers would pull away as they led by 17 just 3 minutes into the third quarter. But the solid defense, along with a great scoring output from Bradley Beal and Russell Westbrook, helped the Wizards climb back in the game. And 2 minutes into the fourth, the Wizards claimed their first lead since the first quarter on a Deni Avdija three-pointer. After a hard-fought fourth quarter, a missed Beal jumper at the buzzer sent the game to overtime.
In OT, Beal and Westbrook were the difference. They scored all 12 Wizards’ points, and it was Westbrook’s and-1 layup that sealed it as they defeated the Lakers 127-124. The backcourt duo scored 6 points apiece in the extra period as they fought through an impressive effort by LeBron James. Beal led the way in scoring with 33 points, 7 rebounds, and 6 assists. Westbrook finished just shy of his fourth straight triple-double with 32 points, 14 rebounds, and 9 assists.
“Feeling good, confident. We got a good group of guys in this locker room that I believe in every night. My job is to be a leader, bring our energy, make sure we are prepared to play. That is the best part about this league is you get to come out and compete and do something we love to, and tonight we did a good job of sticking with it,” said Westbrook.
With their 5th straight win, the Wizards are on their biggest win streak of the season. They now sit at 13th in the Eastern Conference. For the Lakers, this marks their 3rd straight loss, which is their longest losing streak. Still, in 2nd in the West, they now trail the Jazz by 3 games.
LeBron plays well but squanders late opportunity at a win
Dealing with the injury to Davis, LeBron has taken on huge minutes to try to combat the loss of his fellow All-NBA forward. Monday night’s game was no different, as he logged 43 minutes through regulation and overtime to try to will his team to victory. His effort was key in the Lakers gaining an early lead, as he was scoring and moving the basketball efficiently. He led the Lakers in multiple categories, finishing with 31 points, 13 assists, and 9 rebounds.
However, LeBron still may be disappointed as he looks back at a key missed opportunity. The Lakers trailing by 2 with under 20 seconds left, LeBron caught an inbound’s pass and sized- up his matchup. For most of the game, that matchup was Rui Hachimura, but a switch left Westbrook guarding a much bigger LeBron. He would immediately take advantage, driving to the rim, hitting the layup, and picking up a foul on the shot to give him a free-throw opportunity for the lead. But LeBron missed the free-throw, leaving the game tied with 9.2 seconds left. Beal would miss the game-winning opportunity, but the Lakers would allow the game to slip away in OT.
Even in an efficient night for LeBron, his miscues are magnified when the game is tight and he is missing his fellow star. On Monday, his shooting and ball security glared as issues for the Lakers. He finished shooting only 2-10 from three-point range and committed 8 turnovers.
Wizards @ Clippers, Tuesday, February 23, STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA
Lakers @ Jazz, Wednesday, February 24, Vivint Smart Home Arena, Salt Lake City, UT