Much like his career, LeBron James’ first Staples Center appearance as the Lakers go-to man down the stretch of a tightly contested game brought mixed results.
First the good, LeBron hit the first of many last second shots he will take as a Laker by draining a pull-up 3-pointer from 25-feet out to tie the game with 3.3 seconds — to send the game to overtime after the Lakers made a furious last second rally. The shot went in after James got away with signaling for a timeout even though the Lakers didn’t have anymore left.
“I just got to my shot and trusted it – I got a good rhythm coming up the floor and just trusted in my shot that I work on every day and was able to get a good bounce into it and get a good look at it,” James said in his post game media session.
San Antonio’s Bryn Forbes inadvertently struck James in the face before the shot and when asked how much he could see, James replied, “Once I step into a gym my vision is good, but that doesn’t mean I’ll make them all the time.”
In overtime, James completed a flurry of wild action by converting a clutch three-point play to give the Lakers a 142-136 lead with 55.6 seconds left.
Then the LeBron roller coaster ride took a dramatic turn as James missed back-to-back free throws with 12.8 seconds left in overtime to leave the Lakers clinging to a 142-141 lead.
Thanks to Kobe Bryant’s consistent heroics at Staples Center over the last two decades, Lakers Nation is very unaccustomed to watching their superstar meltdown at the free throw line in crunch time which is exactly what James did Monday night.
San Antonio’s Patty Mills drained a go-ahead jumper over the Lakers Lonzo Ball with 6.8 second left to play to give the Spurs a 143-42 lead and setup the final shot of the night. James’ passed up a chance to setup swingman Josh Hart for a corner three-pointer to take his second clutch jumper of the night – a step-back 22-footer over San Antonio’s Rudy Gay from the left side of the goal which clanked off the rim as the buzzer went off.
The loss sends James and the Lakers to (0-3) on the season and is the first time since the 04-05 season that a James led team has started 0-3. Despite missing a chance for his first game winner in purple in gold, James likes what he is seeing so far in this early season.
“I just got to my spot that I wanted, and it just didn’t go down,” James said. “We are going to continue to get better and I like the direction that we are going because obviously it’s not about results and wins right now and it’s such a long process. It’s not tough because I know what I got myself into because it’s a process and I get it.”