There was no way the Lakers would overcome a 20-point deficit against a high-powered offense such as the Dallas Mavericks. What occurred next both shocked me and was expected.
It's now a 21-4 run in the 4th Q, and LAL are within 3 after a pretty lefty layup from LeBron through Mavs traffic.— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) November 23, 2023
The Lakers went on a 21-4 run and cut the lead to within three points with over five minutes of play left. Then, in the end, the inevitable happened and Kyrie Irving hit a dagger three and a pair of free throws to secure the win for Dallas
It was another fake comeback.
I knew it the entire time. I tried to stop myself from buying in, yet there I was, hoping for the improbable and denying the inevitable.
And that’s the beauty of the fake comeback. It instills hope and inspires but ultimately disappoints.
But what even is a fake comeback? How do you differentiate from a legitimate chance and why are the Lakers consistently in this scenario? Let’s take a closer look at the anatomy of a fake comeback.
The first step is to be down by a wide margin.
Now, what’s considered wide is subjective, but double digits feels like a good minimum threshold. Down by ten means, you’ll likely need to go on a couple of runs to fully comeback and win the game. In the fourth quarter, the Lakers were down double that.
So, wherever your comfort level is in calling a deficit a wide margin, the Lakers certainly fit that requirement on Wednesday.
For it to be a fake comeback, you do have to, for a moment, get back into the game.
L.A. did that with their 21-4 run, which cut the lead to three. And with so much time left, even the biggest skeptics had to admit the Lakers were back in this one. A victory was no longer an optimistic homer perspective any realist would scoff at. They were down by one possession at home, and Dallas is awful defensively, a win was in play.
Then comes the final ingredient in the wicked recipe, the loss. When coming back from so many points, you have three enemies. Your opponent, time and yourself. All three worked in tandem to ensure the Lakers earned loss number seven Wednesday night.
First it was Irving hitting a dagger three over Austin Reaves to regain the lead with 21 seconds left.
“Yeah, the one, the Kyrie three that he hit to go up, one, I made a dumb decision and dropped a little too far,” Reaves said postgame. “It was a two-point game and Luka was driving and I made a bad decision and should have fanned out because the two, they tie it instead of go up one and then we can take the last shot or whatever the time was at the time. But that’s the one that will stick with me just because I should know better and do better. But I also know that there’s a million other plays in the game that if they go our way, momentum can build faster. But yeah, that one’s going to bother me a little bit.”
Next, you have the small errors the Lakers made in the fourth. Jaxson Hayes missed two free throws that would’ve made it a one-point game and Luka Dončić made L.A. pay, hitting a three on the other end. Then James missed two more free throws and Irving responded with a layup on the other end, making it a seven-point lead. Those four free points made all the difference in a game the Lakers lost by three.
L.A. still had a chance in the closing seconds, but James had an awful turnover when he tried to force an entry pass to a double-teamed Davis. Dallas stole the ball and all but sealed Los Angeles’ fate.
“Yeah. Left a little short left, A little short, right read,” James said after the game. “Just the quarterback, I just left it short. I didn’t lead my receiver and I got picked off.”
James might be beating Father Time, but regulation time he did not. When down by so many points, you spend all the minutes you have left just chasing the deficit. It took the Lakers more than half the quarter to get back in the game and the rest of the time to try and take the lead.
When they finally did, Dallas just needed a little execution to walk away victorious and with their two stars, they did just enough to get it done. That’s why you don’t want to be down by such a large deficit. It creates an environment where everything has to break your way to win while the other team doesn’t have that disadvantage.
So what do the Lakers have to do to prevent being in these situations? Well, for starters, they have to start games better. The Lakers have struggled all season long, playing well in the opening quarter and Wednesday was no exception. L.A. only trailed by four points after the first quarter, but they followed that up by losing each quarter until the fourth. They never had control or momentum and the opening frame catalyzed that.
You won’t win them all but the fact you can even have a fake comeback is encouraging if you want to look at things from a half-glass-full scenario.
It demonstrates your team doesn’t quit and can push their opponent to the edge and force them to always stay focused. Also, one day, that fake comeback will be real. The Lakers were down by as many as 19 against the Clippers earlier this year and won that game, so the fact this team has a never-say-die attitude is encouraging.
Still, Ham has no interest in moral victories.
“I mean it is tough man to put yourself behind the eight ball like that,” Ham said after the loss. “With the first three quarters, we could have easily folded the tent, especially after having played the night before last night. But like I told my guys, we don’t believe in moral victories around here. And as I said before, starting last year, it is not just wins and losses. There’s wisdom and lessons and we got a lesson today, the way we buckled down in the fourth quarter, fought back, gave ourselves a chance. That’s what you draw from that game. That’s the lesson you draw from it.”
The Lakers will have a chance of getting over this fake comeback and earn a real win when they play Cleveland on Saturday.
You can follow Edwin on Twitter at @ECreates88.