LeBron James pass Karl Malone for No. 2 all-time in regular-season scoring, but the Lakers weren’t ready to make a little bit of history of their own. The team had a real opportunity to win back-to-back road games for the first time all year and get their first winning streak since Jan. 7, but instead barfed up a game-long lead against the Kyle Kuzma and Bradley Beal-less Wizards to lose, 127-119.
It’s hard to call any game “must-win” at this point in the season given that the Lakers are essentially locked-in to the lower bracketed play-in range in either the ninth or 10th spot, but this loss was a real (and mostly self-inflicted) punch to the nether regions by this team.
The Lakers led 32-16 to start the game, but almost entirely stopped playing defense at that point once they realized how easy it was to score against this Wizards defense. That allowed the undermanned Wiz to find some rhythm, while Kristaps Porzingis of all people destroyed the undersized Lakers at the rim and on the glass for 27 points, including 16 in the fourth as he shot over Lakers like they were folding chairs.
Add in a few of his teammates hitting timely shots and the Lakers going cold at the wrong time — and two final daggers from Deni Avdija and Porzingis to put this one away — it was enough Washington to take its first lead in the fourth quarter and hold on to hand the purple and gold a truly embarrassing loss.
Even when factoring in that the Lakers are an old team on the second night of a back-to-back after playing overtime the night before, they really should have won this one, as Washington was also playing for the second night in a row, and was even more shorthanded than Los Angeles. The Lakers also wasted one of Russell Westbrook’s most efficient and effective two-way games in the season (22 points, 8 assists, 10 rebounds, 2-3 shooting from deep), in addition to continuing a longstanding tradition of losing on nights LeBron James makes history.
But at this point, we should expect this team to disappoint anyone who still believes in them. I guess at least on Saturday they deserve some credit for finding a new way to do it. It might be the one thing they’re consistent at.