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Lakers vs. Blazers Preview: How will L.A. respond after a heartbreaker?

Monday’s dispiriting loss will sting for a while, and as cliche as it sounds, it could either break or make the Lakers moving forward. 

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Indiana Pacers v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images

The Lakers learned a really tough lesson on Monday’s heartbreaking loss to the Indiana Pacers, to whom they blew a 17-point lead to in the fourth quarter. Rookie Andrew Nembhard’s game-winning buzzer beater not only embarrassed the purple and gold but also revealed that this team has a lot of work to do such as rebounding, guarding the perimeter, and late-game execution (basically everything that went wrong in that last three minutes) to name a few.

Despite being up by 17 with nine minutes left in the fourth quarter, Los Angeles lost the game, because they couldn’t let their defense back their offense up. They allowed the Pacers to score 23 fastbreak points, 22 second-chance opportunities, and to shoot 34.7% from the 3-point line.

There was no excuse for the Lakers to give this game away, considering that the Pacers were on the end of a back-to-back and had to climb back in the final period. There was also no excuse for the Lakers to miss six of their last nine shots to close the game. As LeBron James alluded to post-game, everything flat-out just went wrong. Now, this painful and dispiriting loss will sting for a while, and as cliche as it sounds, it could either break or make the Lakers moving forward.

Because remember how the Lakers lost the same way not once but twice to the Oklahoma City Thunder a season ago? Or when they broke down late in the fourth quarter against the Sacramento Kings to lose in triple overtime last year? Those were unforgivable losses that shattered the team’s overall confidence, which then contributed to the Lakers concluding their worst season in franchise history. And after the exact same script took place last Monday night, it will be interesting to see how this team responds.

Will they come out stronger, learn from their mistakes especially when it comes to protecting leads and closing games? Or will the Lakers allow this to carry over and let it shatter their rhythm, momentum and confidence similar to last season? There’s no question that this loss was a tough pill to swallow for the Lakers, but one that they can’t allow to break them.

And what’s ironic is that the Lakers will try to redeem themselves from this heartbreaker against the Blazers on Wednesday, the same team who they also blew a eight point lead to in the fourth quarter last October. This game will say a lot about this Lakers team in terms of how they respond to adversity and their mental fortitude. Hopefully by then, this team has realized that a basketball game is played for 48 minutes and doesn’t stop when they have a 17 point lead with nine minutes left in the final period.

Notes and Updates

  • Before Monday’s back-breaking loss to the Pacers, the Lakers were 347-0 when leading by 17 points or more in the fourth quarter over the last 20 seasons (both in the regular season and playoffs). They were the only NBA team that had this remarkable record and now that streak has ended.
  • The Lakers will face a Blazers team (11-9) without Damian Lillard (calf injury) and Gary Payton II (core muscle injury). After a hot start to the season, Portland has cooled off a bit and has lost six out of its eight games. Still, Los Angeles cannot take this team lightly because we all know what can happen if they do. The Lakers have to look out for Anfernee Simons and Jerami Grant who exploded against them in their last meetup.
  • LeBron James appears to have avoided an ankle injury in the loss to the Pacers. The team had him examined on Tuesday, but he is still being listed as probable against the Blazers with the same adductor strain that has been on the injury report for him for weeks.
  • As for the rest of the Lakers injury report, Anthony Davis (low back tightness) is also probable, while Scotty Pippen Jr. and Cole Swider (G League Two-Way) are on assignment with the South Bay Lakers.
  • For news around the league, in case you missed it — Minnesota Timberwolves All-Star Karl Anthony Towns suffered a calf injury on Monday and will be sidelined for a couple of weeks. On the eastern conference side of things, Washington Wizards’s (who the Lakers face this Sunday) Kristap Porzingis had himself a career night after ranking up 41 points, two steals and three blocks in Monday’s victory over the Timberwolves.

The Lakers and Blazers will tip off at 7:30 p.m. PT on Wednesday. The game will only be televised locally on Spectrum SportsNet, and nationally on NBA TV.

For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow Nicole on Twitter at @nicoleganglani.

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