LOS ANGELES — The Lakers claimed a winning record for the first time this season, beating the Hawks 107-106 at home with help from game-deciding plays from both LeBron James and Tyson Chandler in the final 15 seconds. Here are three quick thoughts from Sunday night’s win, as the Lakers move to 7-6 and into the West’s No. 8 seed thanks to a three-game winning streak.
LeBron James saves himself from scrutiny
After building a 15-point third-quarter lead, L.A. squandered it all and then some, falling behind by four points in the game’s final five minutes. While a sleepy Staples Center came alive when James drove hard to the hoop to earn a pair of free throws, the crowd groaned when the four-time MVP’s late-game free-throw struggles persisted.
Trailing by one, James, who has missed critical free throws multiple times this season, missed both shots to seemingly give the young and rebuilding Hawks a chance to steal a road win. In the scramble for the ball, L.A. came up with an offensive rebound and James came up with the game-winning points, sneaking to the weak side for a thunderous put-back dunk. He celebrated his get-right moment by hanging on the rim, his body loose with relief, as both teams headed to the bench for timeout.
James finished with a game-high 26 points, seven rebounds and four assists, but he shot just 1-5 in the fourth quarter prior to his dunk and missed both of his fourth-quarter free-throw attempts.
As a postscript to James’s night, it’s worth pointing out that he also had a hand—or foot—in another crucial turning point. With less than two minutes to play, he stretched out to deflect a pass that keyed a fast-break opportunity for the Lakers. Upset that James wasn’t whistled for a kick ball that would have stopped play, Hawks guard Kent Bazemore screamed at the official and received a technical foul with the score tied at 104. Kyle Kuzma cashed in the technical free throw, helping provide L.A. with its one-point final victory margin.
Tyson Chandler seals the win
Bought out by the Suns and signed by the Lakers earlier this week, L.A. native Tyson Chandler has wasted no time endearing himself to the home crowd. The Lakers are now 3-0 since signing the veteran center, who has fit in nicely behind starter JaVale McGee as a lob-finishing and rim-protecting presence.
Chandler, 36, made his biggest mark yet during the last possession of regulation, stepping over to help as Hawks rookie Trae Young drove into the paint. As the final seconds ticked down, Chandler stretched out for his third block of the game, narrowly avoiding a goaltending call. Time expired before Atlanta could get up another potential game-winning attempt.
Honoring Thousand Oaks shooting victims.
The Lakers and Hawks both donned black t-shirts with the word “ENOUGH.” on the front and the names of the victims from a recent shooting in nearby Thousand Oaks, Calif., on the back. Prior to the pre-game introductions, the Lakers also held a moment of silence and read aloud the names of the 12 victims, who were shot and killed at the Border Line Bar and Grill. The Clippers and Bucks both wore similar shirts during a Saturday afternoon game at Staples Center.