Leading by 16 points with 14 minutes remaining in Tuesday's ball game, the Los Angeles Lakers appeared destined to put down the Washington Wizards and claim a rare victory over a playoff team.
By the time the final buzzer sounded, the Lakers had magically handed the Wizards an 11-point victory, 119-108. The Lakers only had 21 victories entering the night, and the purple and gold exited Staples Center with the same number of victories thanks, largely, to Wizards superstar point guard John Wall.
Wall finished the night with 34 points, 14 assists, four steals and three rebounds, including eight points, three steals and two assists in the fourth quarter alone. In fact, Wall's final stint on the court consisted of seven minutes and two seconds during which time the Wizards outscored the Lakers by 15 points.
In truth, the Lakers crumbled for the duration of the fourth quarter. LA only scored 13 points over the final 12 minutes, while the Wizards put up 37. Coincidentally, the Lakers scored 37 points in the third quarter after hitting 15 straight shots as a team, but that offensive rhythm evaporated faster than LA's 16-point lead.
Before the fourth quarter collapse, Lakers guard D'Angelo Russell had put together an impressive night. Russell scored 24 points, handed out seven assists and pulled down five rebounds through the first three periods en route to what appeared to be a possible triple-double performance.
Then, the 21-year-old simply could not find the bottom of the net. Russell played all 12 minutes of the fourth quarter and only made one of his seven field goal attempts. Over those final 12 minutes, Russell and the Lakers were outscored by 24 points as Wall orchestrated the magical turnaround.
Save for the final quarter, the Lakers played well. Jordan Clarkson finished with 22 points, and five Lakers finished in double figures.
"The fourth quarter, when it's winning time, the intensity gets to a whole other level," Lakers coach Luke Walton said after the game. "I thought our guys did a good job of playing for most of the night, and once (the Wizards) got back that momentum, we didn't do a good enough job to stop them."
Russell summarized the night far more succinctly: "We were making shots; we were getting stops. Then, we stopped making shots, and we stopped getting stops."
With the loss, the Lakers fell to 21-53 on the season and remain in last place in the Western Conference, only half a game behind the Phoenix Suns, 22-53. LA is still five games ahead of the NBA worst Brooklyn Nets, 16-58.