LeBron James had a “simple” explanation as to why he passed up a layup to dish the rock to Carmelo Anthony, who missed a game-winning, jumper in the Lakers’ 139-130 loss to the Rockets in overtime on Wednesday.
“I ended up behind the backboard,” James said, noting that he thought he had an angle on the drive before Houston’s David Nwaba entered his path.
“I was a little bit off-balance and I could have forced a reverse layup, but I wasn’t in the position to feel like I could have got a great look. I could have got a decent look and I feel like Melo’s look was a lot better than mine.”
The Lakers had a prime opportunity to send the worst-in-the-West Rockets home when James drove to the basket in the final seconds with the score tied, 120-120. Instead, Anthony got the late pass on the wing, and pump-faked to get his footing, but missed the shot at the buzzer.
Although James recorded a triple-double to go with Russell Westbrook’s 30 points and Malik Monk’s 20-point effort, it wasn’t enough to overcome the Rockets, who dominated the overtime period.
Westbrook, meanwhile, had his best game of the year amid his months-long offensives struggles. But it’s the Lakers’ defense that’s largely to blame for the upset in Houston — LA’s ninth-straight road loss.
James also added five turnovers to his fifth triple-double performance of the season.
The struggling Lakers have now lost six of their last seven, with the exception of a win over the Warriors last Saturday, when James dropped season-high 56 points.
The ninth-seeded Lakers (28-37) would make the play-in tournament if the playoffs began Thursday.
The play-in tournament begins on April 12. If a team is a ninth or tenth seed, they must win twice to get out of the play-in round, which concludes on April 15.