Lakers blow 17-point lead late as they fall to Pacers at buzzer

As far as trades that haven’t happened yet, this one has been talked about a lot.

The idea goes something like this: Buddy Hield is one of the best high-volume three-pointers in the NBA, the kind of shooter that’s a must-have in a winning LeBron James roster. Myles Turner is one of the best shot blockers in the league and pairing him with Anthony Davis would make life hell when attacking offensive players.

And for the price of two future first-round picks and Russell Westbrook’s salary to match, they could both be Lakers.

On Monday, when the Pacers and Lakers met for the first time this season, talk of that deal dominated — only to be surpassed by a close game with Westbrook in the thick of it and a rookie ready to underscore it.

Indiana second-round pick Andrew Nembhard blasted the buzzer with a three-point shot to cap a 17-point comeback and stun the Lakers 116-115.

“They’ve had some great successes,” Westbrook said.

The Lakers lacked shooting, struggled defensively on the wing and the good spirit they built crumbled late in a brutal loss.

Westbrook scored nine of his 24 points in the third quarter, pushing the Lakers to a 16-point lead, and an assist from Westbrook to a Wenyen Gabriel basket sent the Lakers into the fourth quarter with 17 minutes remaining.

But the Pacers beat the Lakers 32-14 from there to the finish line to steal the win, recreating so many familiar late-game problems from earlier in the season.

James, back in his third game after missing time with a groin strain, couldn’t shake past smaller Indiana defenders and fought from the center and the rim. He had 21 points and hit a tie shot with 20.9 seconds left but missed 14 shots – including six in the fourth quarter.

“Everything has to go wrong to lose a game like this and everything went wrong,” said James.

Davis, whom teammate Dennis Schroder dubbed the NBA’s best player in recent weeks, returned with a team-high 25 points after missing a game but only had two shots in the fourth and lost a key vacant missed throw.

And while Westbrook had eight points in the fourth round of 16, he was largely the lone focal point for the Lakers offense while the Pacers made their comeback.

“Next time I’ll do better to ensure we stay organised,” said coach Darvin Ham.

The real problems were defensively – the Lakers couldn’t stop at home, down the stretch, giving the momentum to a team with lower expectations and a better win-loss record.

Indiana scored eight of his last nine possessions of the game, including Nembhard’s game-winner, which came after a missed three-pointer from Turner.

Lakers forward LeBron James drives to the basket while Indiana Pacers guard Buddy Hield defends.

Lakers forward LeBron James (6) drives to the basket while Indiana Pacers guard Buddy Hield (24) defends in the first half at Arena Monday.

(Allen J. Cockroaches / Los Angeles Times)

The teams have been linked since the beginning of the offseason, when rumors of a deal between Westrbook, Turner and Hield first surfaced. And unlike most trade talks, it never really died for the Lakers to hold a reconsideration meeting in the final days of the offseason.

The Lakers continued to hold their own on deals, including both future first-round picks, unless they looked at the deal made them a certified contender. To date, they haven’t felt that way about a hero-turner package – and with a loss like Monday’s, it’s not easy to see the deal that would fix their shortcomings. Nevertheless, it was on everyone’s lips.

Before the game, Indiana coach Rick Carlisle answered a general question about the increase in trade talks by going through all the generalities.

“Today’s players are good at dealing with the noise. I just think there’s so much of it,” Carlisle said. “Our guys are extremely professional – you’re talking about Buddy and Myles – we all know it. These guys have been great for us this year. They were just great. They’ve been solid veterans, and they’ve both had some of the best years of their entire careers. It was great to be with these guys.

“I can see where people would be interested in them,” he said, laughing. “I have a vested interest in not trading them, you know?”

Both players struggled on Monday, Hield scoring 15 but making just one of six shots from beyond the arc. Turner was slightly better with 15 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks, but he was making 17 shots.

Davis finished the game with 13 rebounds, Westbrook had six assists (and six turnovers), and the Pacers had 22 second-chance points for the 13 Lakers, though LA had six more offensive rebounds.

Before the game, Ham downplayed trade issues, referring to general manager Rob Pelinka on the issue. But with the Lakers having won five times in their last seven games to finish bottom in the West, Ham was happy with the current development.

“All I can say is we’re absolutely thrilled with the way our current group is developing and we’re excited about the success we’ve had here lately,” said Ham.

But on Monday night, with the Lakers feeling as good as they have been all season, some of the cracks in that foundation reappeared. Lakers blow 17-point lead late as they fall to Pacers at buzzer

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