LeBron James fell into the Lakers bench like a development employee after a 16-hour day, legs and arms flying to the edges, head rolled again, trying to the ceiling.
He was exhausted, bodily spent from preventing for place within the paint, mentally worn out from one other needed comeback after the Lakers’ greatest weaknesses have been mercilessly uncovered by the Mavericks.
It was late within the third quarter Tuesday evening at Crypto.com Area, a flurry of James’ jumpers swinging momentum to the Lakers. Nevertheless it wouldn’t keep there.
This yr, it hardly ever has.
Sluggish on protection, chilly on offense, frustration all over the place, the Lakers once more dug a gap too deep to flee in a 109-104 loss.
The climb is brutal. And there’s no signal of it getting simpler, the staff with 21 video games left to salvage some positives from a season outlined by disappointment.
The script Tuesday — and from so many video games this season — simply received’t work. Their effort to undo a 21-point Mavericks lead with a dominant third quarter, which gave them the lead heading into the fourth, was wasted by a sputtering end.
The Lakers are simply too flawed, too short-handed, too inconsistent to outlive falling behind by greater than 20. With James, they’re adequate to return again and make it attention-grabbing. With out sufficient of every part else, they’re unable to win.
James had 26 factors and 12 rebounds, Carmelo Anthony had 20 factors off the bench and Malik Monk scored 17. Luka Doncic led Dallas with 25 factors.
Not like their spiritless efficiency Sunday in opposition to New Orleans, which was a brand new all-time low in a season with an ever-sinking ground, the Lakers performed with loads of coronary heart in opposition to the Mavericks. However coronary heart and energy aren’t sufficient, particularly in opposition to a staff with sensible playoff targets just like the Mavericks.
After a decent first quarter, Dallas’ lead grew to as many as 21as the Lakers’ protection was toothless in opposition to Doncic and Jalen Brunson. They acquired stops within the third quarter and pushed in transition, undoing the lead and sending James to the bench in a heap.
And although the Lakers have been capable of construct their result in as many as six within the fourth quarter, they have been outscored 15-4 down the stretch whereas the Mavericks surged into the win with out a lot resistance.
“It’s simply disappointing,” coach Frank Vogel stated.
Earlier than their third straight loss, the person who was as soon as alleged to take Vogel’s job spent Tuesday afternoon defending it.
Jason Kidd, employed to be a Lakers assistant earlier than the staff even had a coach, was seen by many because the doubtless successor if Vogel stumbled in his first months on the job in 2019. He, not Vogel, was the person with the tight relationships with the Lakers’ greatest gamers, and he, not Vogel, would fulfill the group’s star-driven tendencies.
However because the Lakers stored profitable, Vogel and Kidd shaped a decent bond that’s continued now that Kidd is teaching the rival Mavericks. Kidd even left Vogel a present within the visiting locker room the primary time these groups met this season.
And Tuesday, earlier than they performed once more, the Lakers in midst of a depressing droop, Kidd gave Vogel one other one — an endorsement.
“He’s going to work by way of this course of that he’s going by way of proper now together with his staff. Frank is nice coach on this league,” Kidd stated, talking softly however immediately. “As a lot as we wish to put blame on coaches, it’s a partnership. Gamers should take accountability too.
“He’s received a championship right here in L.A. And so I believe he’s going to be superb.”
Whereas not absolutely absolved of the Lakers’ failings this season — it’d be laborious to name anybody with a fingerprint on this group innocent — Vogel’s been compelled to scramble all season. And that scramble continued in opposition to the Mavericks with yet one more beginning lineup.
The Lakers opened the sport with James at middle, flanked by Austin Reaves, Monk, Stanley Johnson and Russell Westbrook. It was their thirtieth completely different beginning lineup of the season, and anther one which didn’t result in a win.
“What I’m doing proper now, not adequate,” Westbrook stated after one other tough, five-for-17 capturing evening.
It’ll be over quickly sufficient, James and the staff having loads of time to relaxation if they will’t make the correct modifications.
This story initially appeared in Los Angeles Instances.