Tyson Chandler saved LeBron James and the Lakers from another disaster
Tyson Chandler did it again.
Two games after saving the day in Los Angeles’ narrow 114-110 win against Minnesota, Chandler came to the rescue to deny Trae Young’s potential game-tying layup in a one-point win over the Hawks on Monday.
Young got the step on Brandon Ingram and threw a floater toward the heavens with time expiring in regulation. Chandler came from the opposite side and rejected the layup at the buzzer. Game, Lakers.
The Lakers acquired Chandler after the Suns bought-out his contract last week, and they haven’t looked back since. Los Angeles is undefeated, having won three in a row since signing the veteran big man to a minimum free agent contract. The Lakers are 7-6 after starting the season 0-3. They’re a team that has had new life breathed into it.
LeBron James is especially excited to have Chandler on the team.
“He’s huge,” James told reporters after the game. “We had a spot that needed some reassurance, and for us to be able to get Tyson in the fashion that we got him and to be able to implement him right away — and the impact that he’s made in three games so far? It’s great.”
The Lakers built a lead as big as 15 points and held it with 1:16 to go in the third quarter. In the blink of an eye, Los Angeles squandered it: At the 10:16 mark in the fourth, Atlanta cut the deficit to just three, and the Hawks took their first lead of the second half with 5:26 to go.
What should have been a blowout victory over a lesser opponent morphed into a dramatic fight to the finish with Young, Kent Bazemore, and Taurean Prince leading Atlanta’s charge. The game actually may have gone to overtime had Bazemore not picked up an awful technical foul with 1:34 to go.
But he did, and Kyle Kuzma hit the free throw to give the Lakers a 105-104 lead. Then, Vince Carter cut for an open dunk, because Vince can still dunk at 41 years old.
It all culminated with LeBron James at the foul line with two free-throw attempts to tie the game and/or take the lead. There was a third option: miss both free throws. Unfortunately, that’s the option James succumbed to.
James also missed both free throws with a one-point overtime lead in an Oct. 22 matchup against San Antonio. The Spurs won that game after Patty Mills hit a game-winning shot that James was unable to respond to.
This time, though, Chandler boxed out both Prince and Alex Len at the same time. That allowed Kuzma to dart across the paint and grab the offensive rebound. Kuzma missed the shot, but James was there for the put-back dunk.
“I’m garbage. Yeah I suck from the free-throw line right now,” James admitted after the game. “But I’ll get my rhythm back. I thank Kuz for giving us another opportunity.”
The play gave the Lakers a 106-105 lead, one that Chandler protected by blocking Young’s shot at the buzzer. This is the second time Chandler saved the day, after his tap-out offensive rebounds crippled the Timberwolves on Nov. 7.
Chandler has been exactly what the doctor prescribed for the floundering Lakers. You can see it where it matters most: In the win column.
And while teams should celebrate every victory, coming that close to a loss to the second-worst team in the East isn’t something to get hype about. The Lakers played the second game of a back-to-back, which counts for something; but a team with the talent they have — including the best player on Earth — should easily dispatch of a young team like Atlanta.
The Tyson Chandler era in Los Angeles is off to a nice start, and the Lakers have rebounded from an ugly beginning to the season. A win is a win — but Los Angeles dodged a disastrous loss by the skin of their teeth.
That’s concerning, but the streak stays alive.