LeBron James, Lakers Fall to Russell Westbrook, Bradley Beal, Wizards in OT

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistFebruary 23, 2021

Washington Wizards guard Russell Westbrook celebrates after scoring and drawing a foul in the closing second of overtime in an NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Lakers Monday, Feb. 22, 2021, in Los Angeles. The Wizards won 127-124 in overtime. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

The Washington Wizards are starting to turn things around following a brutal start.

Washington extended its winning streak to five with a dramatic 127-124 overtime victory over the Los Angeles Lakers in Monday's showdown at Staples Center. Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal spearheaded the effort for the visitors, who improved to 11-17 on the season by overcoming a 17-point deficit in the second half.

Los Angeles is still an impressive 22-10 but is trending in the opposite direction with three straight losses and a 1-4 mark in its last five games. LeBron James and Montrezl Harrell led the way for the Purple and Gold, who were once again without Anthony Davis and Dennis Schroder.

James and Kyle Kuzma both had chances to force double overtime with three-pointers in the final seconds but missed.

         

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Notable Player Stats

  • Russell Westbrook, G, WAS: 32 PTS, 14 REB, 9 AST
  • Bradley Beal, G, WAS: 33 PTS, 7 REB, 6 AST, 3 STL
  • LeBron James, F, LAL: 31 PTS, 13 AST, 9 REB, 8 TO
  • Montrezl Harrell, F, LAL: 26 PTS, 9 REB, 2 BLK
  • Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, G, LAL: 21 PTS, 4-of-8 3PT

           

Wizards Demonstrate Their Fight in Comeback Win

Give the Wizards credit.

They could have folded following an abysmal 3-12 start to the season, especially when six games were postponed for COVID-19 concerns and Beal was the focus of trade rumors seemingly every night.

Much like the season as a whole, they could have folded in Monday's game when they were down 17 in the second half. Instead, they continued the theme of battling back with their dynamic guards leading the way on offense and the team as a whole dialing up the defensive intensity for stretches.

Beal, who entered play averaging 30.0 points a night in February, mixed in his smooth shooting stroke with a willingness to facilitate when needed. Westbrook, who notched a triple-double in each of his previous three games, consistently exploded past the Lakers' guards and spearheaded the effort on the glass from his point guard position.

Throw in a much-needed spark off the bench from Robin Lopez, Raul Neto creating havoc as a perimeter defender, multiple fourth-quarter three-pointers from Davis Bertans and secondary scoring from Rui Hachimura, and the visitors made a statement while closing the gap and taking the lead.

The defense also held the Lakers to 23 points in the third quarter to set the stage for the comeback and dramatic finish.

While Beal missed a buzzer-beater in regulation, he scored three straight clutch baskets in the final two minutes of overtime as Washington seized control. Westbrook also scored a massive and-1 with 11.6 seconds left, and the defense saved the win when he missed the free throw that could have iced it.

It was one of the most impressive victories for any team this season, and the Westbrook-Beal combo has the Wizards looking like a playoff team.

            

Lakers Facing Actual Adversity Following Another Loss

Adversity was an unfamiliar concept for the 2020-21 Lakers until this recent stretch.

While nobody would have blamed the defending champions for coasting for stretches just months after winning last season's title, they started the campaign on fire and looked to be head and shoulders above the rest of the league.

However, Davis' absence has caused some issues and, perhaps most importantly, put even more of the onus on the 36-year-old James to carry the team on a nightly basis. It reached the point that Kentavious Caldwell-Pope called on the supporting cast to take some of the pressure off the King following Saturday's loss to the Miami Heat.

The secondary options answered the challenge out of the gates with Harrell overpowering Washington's frontcourt a number of times, Kuzma finding his stroke from deep and Caldwell-Pope providing a spark on the perimeter.

LeBron racked up the assists with so many Lakers dialed in during the early going and played the role of facilitator whenever Washington sent additional defensive attention his way.

It appeared as if the home team would cruise to a straightforward victory, but it went ice cold from three in the second half after the quick start. To Harrell's credit, he continued to dominate the Wizards in the paint and played through contact during perhaps his best performance in a Lakers uniform.

That helped Los Angeles weather some of the Wizards' storm to set up a dramatic ending, but LeBron missed a free throw with 9.8 seconds remaining in regulation that could have won it and couldn't counter the clutch plays from Westbrook and Beal.

For the first time all season, the Lakers look somewhat vulnerable.

          

What's Next?

The Wizards will remain in Los Angeles and play the Clippers on Tuesday, while the Lakers will travel to face the Utah Jazz on Wednesday.