LeBron James had a chance to get his first win in a Lakers uniform in style -- with the ball in his hands, L.A. trailing by one and the final seconds ticking off. But it wasn't to be. LeBron's step-back jumper from the left wing clanged wide right, and the Spurs held on for a wild 143-142 win to send the Lakers to 0-3 on the season.
"I got to my spot, I got the shot I wanted, it just didn't go down," James told reporters afterward.
To LeBron's point, he got a good, clean look. This has been something of a go-to, waning-seconds move for LeBron over the years -- size his defender up and get to the step-back going left as time expires. It's a comfortable, rhythmic shot for him. He nailed almost this exact shot, though from a bit deeper, to beat the Warriors back in his Heat days.
Clearly, LeBron can make any shot on the floor, and being that he's had success with this particular approach in the final seconds, it's easy to understand why LeBron felt comfortable going to the step-back. At the same time, LeBron noted to reporters after the game how tightly officials have been calling fouls in the early part of the season. "With the new rule changes," he said, "you literally can't touch anybody."
So here you have a human freight train in LeBron, who looked like he had the angle on his defender before he stepped back, and you also have officials who are calling fouls right and left. Seems like driving to the basket, when you're only down one, would be a more calculated bet than settling for a step-back jumper. It's hard to imagine LeBron not getting a call had he gone hard to the rim. Could it be that LeBron didn't feel comfortable shooting free throws with the game on the line? That sounds Skip-Bayless crazy, I know, but look at this stat:
LeBron James missed 2 FTs with 12 secs left in OT and the Lakers up 1. In the final 15 seconds of the 4th qtr/OT, LeBron is 10-21 (48%) on FTs in one-score games since the start of last season. That's the worst FT pct of any player with at least 10 FTA in those situations. pic.twitter.com/VydjZfZDTL— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 23, 2018
Pretty simply, LeBron has been a terrible free-throw shooter in these tight, overtime situations, and he had missed two big ones down the stretch in overtime against the Spurs. Just something to chew on.
All of this said, the Lakers wouldn't even have been in overtime if it weren't for LeBron's heroics. After L.A. stormed back from down eight with just over a minute to go, LeBron hit this beauty to send things to overtime:
But in the end, it was Patty Mills sinking the OT winner that LeBron couldn't answer.
LeBron finished with -- ho-hum -- 32 points, 14 assists and eight rebounds. Kyle Kuzma had a monster night with 37 points and eight boards, and Josh Hart was once again terrific with 20 points and 10 boards. The 142 points were the most ever put up by a LeBron team, and yet, somehow, it wasn't enough. For the first time since 2004, LeBron James has started 0-3. The season is young, but in the West, as my man Yogi Berra liked to say, it gets late early. The Lakers might find themselves within a few games of missing the playoffs this season, and if so, these games are going to hurt.