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PHILADELPHIA 94, LAKERS 93

Trouble follows the Lakers home

Andre Iguodala's buzzer-beating three-pointer gives Philadelphia a 94-93 victory at Staples Center, saddling the Lakers with a stunning home loss.

March 18, 2009|Mike Bresnahan

Phil Jackson tried to warn his players.

He brought it up in team meetings, sent messages through the media, did everything but shoot off a flare gun in the Lakers' locker room.

But the players didn't think they lacked a killer instinct.

They had a chance to prove otherwise against the Philadelphia 76ers, but the verdict wasn't favorable when it was unsealed Tuesday at Staples Center.

The Lakers hemmed and hawed against a barely-.500 team before finally falling to the 76ers in a 94-93 loss.

The Lakers led by 11 in the first quarter, but lost all of it. Then they led by 14 in the fourth quarter and somehow lost that too.

Basically, they were lost throughout the night.

Kobe Bryant's pull-up jump shot from inside the three-point line gave them a 93-91 lead with 6.6 seconds left.

But Andre Iguodala's three-pointer as time expired gave the 76ers something more important -- a victory.

The issues to be sorted out in the aftermath included, but certainly weren't limited to, the NBA standings, the failure to hold onto a pair of substantial leads, the declining play of the reserves, and the last-second play by Iguodala.

"I told the team we had to work real hard to lose that game," Jackson said. "We found a way to do it, though."

Jackson's public decree that the Lakers were losing their killer instinct after a so-so victory Sunday against Dallas was met with shrugs from players.

They were more somber after losing to Philadelphia (34-31).

"That's what happens when you let a team stick around," said forward Lamar Odom, who had 14 points, 11 rebounds and five assists, one of the few bright spots for the Lakers. "This is toward the end of the year. We want to finish strong and play our best games. We've got to tie up some loose ends, and we will."

First and foremost, the Lakers (53-14) fell a game behind Cleveland (54-13) for the best record in the league. The box score revealed a main reason why: The Lakers' reserves were outscored by those of the 76ers, 36-18.

"We're just not coming out and really attacking and playing aggressive in the substitution role and that's now become prevalent and it's become an issue," Jackson said.

Coaches also hammered home during a late timeout that the Lakers still had a foul to give before the 76ers inbounded the ball after Bryant's shot. Instead, Iguodala dribbled out the last few seconds of the clock before launching from three-point range with Trevor Ariza guarding him.

"I don't know if Trevor understood when I said we have a foul to use, because he didn't use it," Jackson said. "When Iguodala handled the ball and took his time, it was time to use it."

Before the game, Jackson said he would consider resting some starters if the Lakers were no longer challenging for the best record in the league. If the Lakers continue to play like they did against the 76ers, it could come sooner than expected.

Despite losing Elton Brand for the season because of shoulder surgery last month, the 76ers looked like the more motivated team.

Bryant played his 933rd regular-season game with the Lakers, passing Jerry West for second-most in team history, but that might have been the most significant part of his night. He made only five of 15 shots and scored only 11 points. He also had five turnovers.

He almost atoned with his late tiebreaking jumper, but Iguodala answered with a game-breaking three-pointer after missing all six of his previous attempts in the game from behind the arc.

That was it for the Lakers. Their killer instinct stayed locked up and hidden away, at least on Tuesday.

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mike.bresnahan@latimes.com

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Down to the wire

The Lakers and Cleveland are battling for the best record in the NBA. A look at each team's stretch run:

LAKERS

Record: 53-14

Gms. left: 15

Home: 6

Away: 9

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CAVALIERS

Record: 54-13

Gms. left: 15

Home: 10

Away: 5

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Golden State 127, Clippers 120

Baron Davis scores 29 and gets a warm ovation in his return to Oakland, but team again struggles. C6

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