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Lakers fall to Wizards in OT for 3rd straight loss

  • The Lakers Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (1) shoots as Wizards’ Bradley Beal (3) and Russell Westbrook (4) defend during their NBA game at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Monday, February 22, 2021. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • The Wizards’ Moe Wagner (21) gets a hand on the ball as the Lakers’ Alex Caruso (4) shoots during their NBA game at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Monday, February 22, 2021. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • The Lakers’ LeBron James (23) lays the ball up as the Wizards’ Moe Wagner (21) defends during their NBA game at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Monday, February 22, 2021. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • The Lakers’ Alex Caruso (4) shoots as the Wizards’ Russell Westbrook (4) defends during their NBA game at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Monday, February 22, 2021. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • The Lakers’ Kyle Kuzma (0) goes to the basket during their NBA game against the Wizards at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Monday, February 22, 2021. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • The Lakers’ Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (1) lays the ball up as the Wizards’ Moe Wagner (21) defends during their NBA game at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Monday, February 22, 2021. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • The Lakers’ Talen Horton-Tucker (5) fouls the Wizards’ Russell Westbrook (4) during their NBA game at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Monday, February 22, 2021. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • The Lakers’ LeBron James (23) looks to pass as the Wizards’ Raul Neto (19) defends during their NBA game at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Monday, February 22, 2021. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • The Wizards’ Russell Westbrook soars past the Lakers’ Alex Caruso, left, and Montrezl Harrell, bottom, on his way to the basket during Monday’s game at Staples Center. Westbrook scored six of his 32 points in overtime for the Wizards, who rallied from a 17-point second-half deficit to win, 127-124. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • The Wizards’ Russell Westbrook (4) tempts a shot as the Lakers’ Wesley Matthews (9) defends during their NBA game at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Monday, February 22, 2021. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • The Lakers’ Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (1) sinks a 3-point shot as the Wizards’ Bradley Beal (3) looks on during their NBA game at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Monday, February 22, 2021. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • The Lakers’ LeBron James (23) goes to the hoop during their NBA game against the Wizards at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Monday, February 22, 2021. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • The Lakers’ LeBron James (23) shoots as the Wizards’ Moe Wagner (21) defends during their NBA game at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Monday, February 22, 2021. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • The Lakers’ LeBron James (23) drives to the hoop as the Wizards’ Deni Avdija (9) defends during their NBA game at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Monday, February 22, 2021. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • The Lakers’ Montrezl Harrell (15) dunks the ball during their NBA game against the Wizards at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Monday, February 22, 2021. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Tahj Eaddy #2 of the USC Trojans against the Arizona Wildcats in the second half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 20, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • The Wizards’ Bradley Beal (3) lays the ball up as the Lakers’ Kyle Kuzma (0) defends during their NBA game at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Monday, February 22, 2021. The Wizards beat the Lakers 127-124 in overtime. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • The Wizards’ Rui Hachimura (8) gestures to Russell Westbrook (4) after Westbrook scored the final points late in overtime during their NBA game against the Lakers at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Monday, February 22, 2021. The Wizards beat the Lakers 127-124 in overtime. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • The Wizards’ Robin Lopez (15) shoots a the Lakers’ Kyle Kuzma (0) defends during their NBA game at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Monday, February 22, 2021. The Wizards beat the Lakers 127-124 in overtime. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • The Wizards’ Russell Westbrook (4) gets a hand on the ball as the Lakers’ Montrezl Harrell (15) goes to the basket during their NBA game at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Monday, February 22, 2021. The Wizards beat the Lakers 127-124 in overtime. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • The Lakers’ LeBron James (23) attempts to stop the Wizards’ Russell Westbrook (4) during their NBA game at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Monday, February 22, 2021. The Wizards beat the Lakers 127-124 in overtime. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • The Lakers’ LeBron James (23) reacts after believing he was fouled during their NBA game against the Wizards at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Monday, February 22, 2021. The Wizards beat the Lakers 127-124 in overtime. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Los Angeles Lakers center Montrezl Harrell, left, grabs a loose ball away from Washington Wizards guard Russell Westbrook during the first half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Feb. 22, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal, center, shoots as Los Angeles Lakers center Marc Gasol, left, defends and forward LeBron James watches during the first half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Feb. 22, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Washington Wizards guard Russell Westbrook, right, shoots as Los Angeles Lakers guard Wesley Matthews, left, defends and forward LeBron James watches during the first half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Feb. 22, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

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LOS ANGELES — The Lakers can’t let up. Not for a minute. The margin for error is far too slim.

LeBron James was too far off on his 29th and final shot of the night, a desperation pull-up from 3-point range in a failed attempt to force a second overtime against the lowly Washington Wizards. And after Kyle Kuzma grabbed a rebound and forced up his own miss from the corner, he threw his head back with exasperation as he stared at the Staples Center ceiling.

How much more is it going to take?

Frustration defined the Lakers’ third consecutive loss, a 127-124 nail-biter against a Washington team that they once led by 17 points. It was the kind of game they treated with a cavalier attitude early in the season, when they had the horses to stay ahead without much effort. Now they’re short-handed, and it’s not good enough anymore.

The way the latest stretch of the season is going, without starters Anthony Davis and Dennis Scröder, the Lakers have played as if one hand is tied behind their back. And while that’s resulted in losses against good teams like Brooklyn and Denver, the latest batch of results (four losses in five games) paints the reality that the team that was leading the Western Conference for much of the early part of the season is now clawing to stay afloat every night.

It surely was not lost on the Lakers that the Wizards were able to ride their one-two punch of Bradley Beal (33 points) and Russell Westbrook (32 points) in overtime – making the hosts pine all the more for the days when they could lean on two All-Stars as well.

Beal captivated in the closing minutes of overtime, scoring on a reverse layup and a tough floater that gave the Wizards a four-point lead in the final minute. After Kentavious Caldwell-Pope made a 3-pointer to close the gap, Westbrook got a contested layup that gave the visitors a three-point lead.

One of the NBA’s top three players in minutes and by far the oldest of that group, James again showed some weariness creeping up in his shooting, going 14 for 29 overall with 31 points, 13 assists and nine rebounds. The Lakers fretted that it took 44 minutes for James to get his first free-throw attempt – the Wizards outshot the home team at the line, 33 to 17 – but still, at crunch time, James was making plays.

The last of those in regulation was a bully-ball drive against Westbrook, hitting a contested two over the superstar guard and drawing the foul. But James missed an opportunity to win it, clanking a free throw with 9.8 seconds left. The Wizards got the ball to Beal out of a timeout, but he couldn’t find open space and his 3-point attempt was too strong – sending the Lakers to their fourth overtime game of the year.

Reserve guard Alex Caruso gave the Lakers a big lift late in the fourth quarter with a key sequence, drawing an offensive foul against Westbrook and then sinking a corner 3-pointer on a second-chance possession to cut the Wizards’ lead to a single point. After Beal hit a pair of free throws, Caldwell-Pope tied it with a 3-pointer of his own.

But rookie Deni Avdija showed gumption in big moments, including the 3-pointer that put the Wizards ahead in the fourth quarter, then the corner 3-pointer that gave Washington a three-point lead with 51.7 seconds to go.

Harrell has been a relatively unsung hero of recent weeks, but he leaped to the fore of Monday night’s matchup early. With tough second efforts against the likes of 7-footer Robin Lopez, Harrell bullied his way to 15 first-half points in just 13 minutes, giving the Lakers double-digit breathing room by halftime.

But that started to crumble in the second half as the Lakers coughed up more turnovers and Washington attacked off of those miscues. The Wizards also dumped the ball to Lopez in the second half, and with a speed advantage over Marc Gasol and a height advantage over Harrell, the 12th-year pro was able to make a difference.

Westbrook brought the bumps on offense in the first half. The former MVP gave the Lakers the gift of misses, including a third-quarter layup attempt that completely missed the rim and backboard.

Harrell finished with a season-high 26 points and nine rebounds.

More to come on this story.

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