Costly mental error hurts Lakers in last-second loss to 76ers

LOS ANGELES — What were the Lakers thinking?
With the 6.6 seconds dwindling, a foul to give and Philadelphia 76ers [team stats] forward Andre Iguodala dribbling the ball straight away outside the three-point arc, it seemed prudent to use that foul and force the Sixers to inbound the ball, again.
Only Lakers forward Trevor Ariza did not do it, even though precise instructions were given in the team huddle in the preceding timeout.
"(Coach Phil Jackson) wrote on the board that we had a foul to give," Ariza said. "I didn’t foul him. That was my fault."
And it was costly. Iguodala rose in the air, lofted a shot, and as the final buzzer sounded, the ball went cleanly through the basket, giving the Sixers a dramatic 94-93 victory Tuesday night at Staples Center.
Ariza was on a virtual island alone with Iguodala on that pivotal possession and tried to anticipate what the Sixers’ top scorer was going to do.
"I thought he was going to go to the rim," Ariza said, "and I was going to foul him before he got there. He hit a tough shot."
The loss, which snapped the Lakers’ three-game winning streak arguably was their most bitter to swallow this season, rivaled only by the one-point loss back on Dec. 2, when the failure to box out on the final possession allowed Indiana Pacers center Jeff Foster to tip in a shot to send the Lakers to a 118-117 defeat.
This loss, however, was more ignominious because not only did it occur at home but it also involved the Lakers blowing a 14-point third quarter lead.
This was the start of a five-game western road trip for Philadelphia, which has its playoff prospects squarely on the line. The sense of urgency is far less for the Lakers, who are cruising along as the top team in the Western Conference.
The way the Lakers blew their third-quarter lead was a near-mirror image of the manner in which they squandered a hefty lead in their previous game three days ago against the Dallas Mavericks.
The Lakers were able to untangle themselves from that mess but Iguodala made sure that they weren’t able to get off the hook this time.
It seemed, however, that the Lakers were going to escape scraped but unscathed. Kobe Bryant nailed another one of his cold-stone jump shots, with 6.6 seconds remaining to give the Lakers a 93-91 lead.
Up to that juncture, Bryant had missed all five of his fourth-quarter field-goal tries. He also had one of his worse offensive games of the season, finishing with just 11 points on a 5 of 15 field-goal shooting performance.

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