Lakers blow 17-point lead to Pacers in fourth quarter as Andrew Nembhard’s buzzer-beater sends them to new lows

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At 9:59 in the fourth quarter of Monday’s game against the Indiana Pacers, Los Angeles Lakers big man Wenyen Gabriel hit home a dunk that propelled the purple and gold players by a score of 101-84. No lead is insurmountable in the NBA, but playing a 17-point lead with less than 10 minutes is about as close as it gets. According to ESPN’s winning probability chart, at this point in the game, the Lakers had a 99.1 percent chance of winning the game and going 8-11 on the season.

And then Indiana scored 32 points in less than 10 minutes. The Lakers went on a measly 14. The Pacers fought their way back into the game with a barrage of 3 points and their best defense of the night, but when LeBron James dropped a floater through the basket with 20.9 seconds left, it looked like the Lakers could still walk away with a 115-113 win. The Pacers missed several tries on their last possession, but they saved their best for last. When time was up, Andrew Nembhard sunk a 3-point win to secure a 116-115 win over the Lakers.

In a way, it almost felt like the reverse of the 3-pointer miracle Matt Ryan did earlier in the season to save the Lakers against the New Orleans Pelicans: a Hail Maria from a team with nothing to win has, is answered and the result oscillates. Of course, New Orleans can afford a shocking defeat. The Lakers can’t do that.

The recent 5:1 was the first positive momentum of the season. A win over the Pacers would have put the Lakers down .500 and just one of the No. 10 seeds in the Western Conference within three games. Moreover, given the opposition, a win would have been symbolic. The Lakers have been negotiating a potential trade deal with Indiana for months. Myles Turner and Buddy Hield both fought for the Pacers. Russell Westbrook has been excellent for the Lakers for the most part. A win might have taken the Lakers out of the rumor mill for a few days.

Instead, they just suffered their most devastating loss of the season. Just weeks ago, the Pacers tried to convince the Lakers to trade two of their best players in exchange for draft capital as an apparent start of a rebuild. The same team, winners of eight of their last ten games, just overcame a 17-point deficit on the road in a back-to-back to stun the Lakers. It’s hard to imagine the season sinking any lower, but given their recent history, I’m sure the Lakers will find a way.

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