INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Malcolm Brogdon saw an opening and took it.
And just like that, the Los Angeles Lakers’ long winning streak away from home was over yesterday.
Brogdon drove past Dwight Howard with 36.4 seconds left, scoring the tiebreaking basket on a nifty reverse layup to help the Indiana Pacers protect their home court with a 105-102 victory over the NBA’s best road team.
“We knew when we threw a punch, they would punch back,” Domantas Sabonis said. “We just stuck together.”
Eventually, the Pacers threw enough scoring jabs to earn their fourth straight victory — perhaps their most impressive all season.
The Lakers (24-4) came into the game with the league’s best record and 14 straight wins on the road, the second-longest streak in franchise history and two wins short of their record-setting mark from 1971-72.
But even LeBron James couldn’t bail them out with All-Star forward Anthony Davis missing the game because of a sprained right ankle.
Yes, James scored 20 points and had nine rebounds and nine assists, but he missed a step-back three-pointer with 11.7 seconds left that would have given the Lakers the lead. A replay review overturned a call and gave the Pacers the ball.
Sabonis then made one of two free throws to finish with 26 points and 10 rebounds.
Rajon Rondo and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope each missed a shot before time expired as the Lakers desperately tried to force overtime.
“Throughout the winning streak, we were able to keep our composure, whether we were up or down, still being able to make a game of it, which we did tonight,” James said. “But sometimes the ball doesn’t bounce your way.”
That was certainly true. After leading most of the first half, the Lakers trailed most of the second half until a 9-0 spurt midway through the fourth quarter turned a five-point deficit into a 95-91 lead.
It didn’t last long.
Brogdon’s mid-range jumper with 2:20 left tied the score at 100. Myles Turner broke the tie by making two free throws with 1:59 left.
Nineteen seconds later, James’ free throws tied it up again and that’s how it stayed until Brogdon took matters into his own hands and charged right past Howard and deftly used the rim to protect the ball for the basket.
“We trust him with the ball in his hands and he’s been making tough shots for us,” Sabonis said. “He’s been big for us all year.”