April 14, 2024

Austin Reaves felt sick to his stomach, the ball more than halfway in before it somehow popped out in the biggest moment.

Nine days ago, Reaves was watching the Players Championship when Wyndham Clark’s 17-footer for birdie to force a playoff somehow rimmed in and then out of the cup.

“What happened to him,” Reaves said, “it was disgusting.”

As he walked through the back hallway at Fiserv Forum Tuesday, a reporter showed Reaves a similar image to Clark’s putt. The ball was in the basket, but not yet through the rim. The clock was off. The game was over.

Only if it had gone in.

“That’s so sick,” Reaves said as he looked as his almost game-winner resting in the basket before it popped out. “That’s some …”

Then there was a string of expletives. A bit of a frustrated grunt. And finally a laugh.

Clark didn’t get a second-chance when he missed his putt. Reaves and the Lakers? Their show moved on, the team eventually winning 128-124 in double overtime thanks largely in part to a huge Reaves three late that got them the win.

“At that point, it’s just shoot that … with confidence,” Reaves told The Times. “We’re up against the wall. Double overtime and everyone is tired. Like, let’s go home.”

Reaves left the arena with his second career triple-double — 29 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists.

The Lakers' Austin Reaves shoots over the Bucks' Khris Middleton during the second overtime of the Lakers' win

The Lakers’ Austin Reaves shoots over the Bucks’ Khris Middleton during the second overtime of the Lakers’ win at Fiserv Forum Tuesday in Milwaukee.

(Stacy Revere / Getty Images)

Reaves’ shot capped a wild win — the Lakers trailing by as many as 19 in the first before they came back. The Bucks pushed back to lead by 16 at the half before the Lakers cut that lead to single digits. Milwaukee pushed again and led by 19 with eight minutes to go before the Lakers began another comeback charge.

“We were only down, the max we were down [in the fourth] was 12,” Taurean Prince told The Times before being corrected. “Oh, see I didn’t even feel that, to be honest. That’s just being in the moment. … It didn’t feel like it, honestly. We just did a really good job of focusing and playing the game and not playing the score.

“… We just kept doing things to give us life. And we’re pretty good if you continue to let us have chances.”

The Lakers came into Tuesday’s game with the Bucks knowing that they might not get a lot of them against Milwaukee. On March 8 in Los Angeles, the Lakers pulled off a mild upset against the Bucks, beating them as LeBron James missed the game with his sore ankle.

That ankle injury again kept him off the floor Tuesday, when there was no question about favorites or underdogs. During the first leg of a six-game road trip that will ultimately determine how much, if any, the Lakers are able to climb in the standings, they quickly fell behind as they missed all but two of their first 17 shots.

Without James, the Lakers looked to Anthony Davis, and he sputtered from the opening tip, as he got out-played by Giannis Antetokounmpo. But in the fourth quarter, Davis came to life, playing through knee pain to 11 of his 34 points as the Lakers’ defense he anchors held the Bucks to just 13 points.

Davis’ jumper came to life, as he hit three three-point shots. He blocked Damian Lillard’s potential game-winner to end the first overtime. And his two free throws near the end sealed the win.

Antetokounmpo went just three for 9 in the fourth quarter and both overtimes.

“We know where we’re trying to get to, where we are in the standings and we got to control what we control and that’s taking it one game at a time, trying to win one game at a time and let the rest take care of itself,” Davis said. “So, for us as a unit, especially with Bron out, guys had to step up. We did that on both ends of the floor.”

The Bucks' Khris Middleton tries to get past the Lakers' Austin Reaves Tuesday in Milwaukee.

The Bucks’ Khris Middleton tries to get past the Lakers’ Austin Reaves Tuesday in Milwaukee. The Lakers won 128-124 in double overtime.

(Morry Gash / Associated Press)

Reaves made his impact felt there, as well, as he helped harass Lillard into a nine for 29 shooting night. He also drew a charge on Antetokounmpo in the fourth and hit a three to make it one possession game for the first time since the opening score.

With just 0.8 left and the score tied, Reaves came free with two defenders going to the rim with Davis, clearing him for an open 34-footer that went in before out.

“‘Damn. What if?’” he thought on his way to the bench after the miss. “’I could’ve ended it. Right there. It was over.’ … But at the same time, you still have the opportunity to win the game.”

Opportunity reappeared in the second overtime, more than three hours after the opening tip. With the score tied and less than 40 seconds to go, Reaves again got open on the left wing. And this time, there wasn’t a bad bounce.

“It’s amazing. … I’ve dreamed about this kind of stuff. Some people, like, I don’t want to say, ‘Don’t want that moment.’ They say they do. But, like, actually, I love it,” Reaves told the Times. “I’ll take any big shot. If I miss 10 in a row, I miss 10 in a row. I’ll take any big shot, any time, any game.

“I just like that moment.”

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