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Lakers winning streak comes to end after ‘wasted opportunity’ against Pacers

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Los Angeles Lakers v Indiana Pacers
Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

With the margin for error slimming late in the season, the Lakers let one get away against the Pacers on Friday as winning streak comes to end.

INDIANAPOLIS - When you’ve played yourself into a corner as the Lakers have with the play-in race late in the season, the margin for error becomes razor-thin.

The Lakers have little room to wiggle if they are to play out of the ninth seed in the play-in seeding and into a spot that gives them two chances to win one game. And it’s with that mindset that the Lakers' frustration of letting one get away was apparent on Friday.

Matched up against a Pacers side they had two wins over this season, including one less than a week prior, the Lakers looked like a team in the middle of a road trip and playing their third game in four nights.

They rarely, if ever, got out of first gear and against a Pacers side that plays at the second-fastest pace in the league, that’s a death knell. For the Lakers, it ended in a 109-90 loss to snap their five-game losing streak.

“I thought we were running in mud a little bit,” Darvin Ham said. “Third game in four nights, the double OT game in Milwaukee, play against a physical Memphis squad, you come in (here) and it’s like the Indy 500 as fast as they play. It’s a combination of a lot of different factors.”

Anthony Davis, meanwhile, was far more blunt about it.

Every team has stretches of three games in four nights. But every team doesn’t have the Pacers awaiting them at home in that third game. With their unique, ultra-fast-paced style, it’s a recipe for struggles.

Even at their best on Sunday against the Pacers, the Lakers scored 150 points — their most in nearly 40 years — and only won by five. But they were far from their best on Friday.

“It’s tough,” Austin Reaves said of playing the Pacers in this scenario. “But you know it’s tough every time you’re going to play them, that you have to put your running shoes on. Make, miss, whatever it is, turnover, they’re running to the ref, ‘Give me the ball!’ and trying to run the other direction and that’s the style of basketball they play and they thrive in.

“Three in four nights, coming in here and playing that style is tough. But coming in, you know that. You just have to mentally prepare for it, go out there and compete.

Reaves, himself, was a microcosm of the Lakers’ struggles on the night. While he shot 7-16 overall, he was 1-7 from the 3-point line. And many will look to his two self-described “bonehead” turnovers in the fourth quarter as the final turning point in the game.

After a flagrant foul on Jalen Smith and two free throws from Anthony Davis cut the deficit to 90-83 with 8:44 left, Reaves and LeBron James couldn’t get on the same page with a lob opportunity, leading to a turnover.

Two possessions later with the deficit still at seven, Reaves’ pass to LeBron was short-armed and stolen by Haliburton, who found Siakam for a fastbreak layup that forced a timeout.

“Just didn’t have a lot of pop on the offensive side of things,” Ham said. “Some guys missed shots, some guys missed shots they normally make, had good looks that just didn’t go down. Other times, us trying to force our will into the post and in the paint, we got out of rhythm a little bit. So, a lot of shots came up against the clock.”

While plenty of time remained after those two plays, for a team struggling to find a rhythm all night long, handing away possessions contributed to the frustration of a wasted opportunity.

The team finished 5-30 from the 3-point line, turned the ball over 16 times and watched Indiana turn that into 16 points. They lost both the points in the paint battle (54-50) and the fastbreak points battle (21-19) on top of being outscored by 15 at the 3-point line.

“I thought we were a bit slow today on both ends of the floor,” Anthony Davis said. “That’s not like us.”

Adding to the irritation is that the Suns, the team they’re chasing for the eighth seed, dropped their contest against the Thunder. While the Lakers didn’t lose ground in the standings, they still remain two games behind the Kings and 2.5 games behind Phoenix.

Ultimately, the Lakers will have only a few more potential opportunities to make up ground with just eight games remaining and no more against the teams they’re fighting with.

Friday didn’t cost them a play-in spot, but it could have been an even bigger catapult for them to surge up the standings and maybe get teams ahead of them to start looking behind them as they hear footsteps.

Instead, it ended as a wasted opportunity.

You can follow Jacob on Twitter at @JacobRude.

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