Why Wenyen Gabriel had a big impact on Lakers’ loss

Los Angeles Lakers forward Wenyen Gabriel (35) during the second half of an NBA basketball game Monday, January 9, 2023, in Denver.  (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Lakers forward Wenyen Gabriel had nine points, 11 rebounds and boundless energy in a loss to the Mavericks on Friday night. (David Zalubowski/Associated Press)

Looking for someone who could provide energy against the Dallas Mavericks on Friday, the Lakers found Wenyen Gabriel.

And the Lakers rode with Gabriel in the all-important fourth quarter, playing him alongside Anthony Davis and relying on backup center as a defender and rebounder.

Gabriel did the job, playing to within a second in the fourth quarter, 23-16 overall while racking up 11 rebounds to go with nine points.

It was “just his energy” that allowed Lakers coach Darvin Ham to trust Gabriel.

“He’s got a great, great nose for the ball,” Ham said. “[He had] 11 setbacks. He tries to defend himself, tries to protect the rim. … He’s just a spark plug, another one of our spark plugs. His height, ability to pace up and down the floor, clean up loose balls, and hit offensive rebounds and putbacks. Defends really well. And he showed all of that tonight. That’s why we stayed with him.”

Despite all he did well and helped double down on dangerous Dallas guard Kyrie Irving, it was a painful night for Gabriel and the Lakers, who lost the game to a last-second Maxi Kleber three-pointer.

“This really hurts, brother,” Gabriel said. “Tired of losing these tight games.”

Gabriel entered the third quarter at 4:16 and played until the final buzzer, save for a temporary substitution and a quick re-entry, his game was contagious and inspiring.

Gabriel had four rebounds in the fourth quarter, all offensive.

When Irving got the ball late in the game, Gabriel helped Dennis Schroder on defense, using his long arms and sliding his 6-9 body to stop the Dallas star from making any more shots.

“That’s part of my ability, that mobility, to do that with a player like Kyrie, or I’m guarding a big one, to be able to double down, kind of slide and try to get the ball out of his hands and that was something that was my job,” Gabriel said. “And then when my guy helps, you get offensive rebounds and that’s another thing I’ve been able to bring value to the team.

“And just play with a lot of energy and play with a higher IQ and understand how to play with different players. Like today, it was my first time with AD in a while and I think those minutes looked good and hopefully later on we’ll get more opportunities for that too.”

problems with the free throw

The Lakers’ poor free throw shooting hurt them a lot. They got more than enough to the line and shot 31 free throws.

But they only made up 19 or 61.3%.

It won’t make it. It didn’t make it.

The Lakers shot 64.3% from the free throw line in the fourth quarter when the game was there for them to finish.

“And we did the job we wanted,” Ham said. “We try to make every game, and that’s to win the free-throw line. We have 31 attempts, but you must do more than 19. We’re doing our free throws, we’re probably not having that conversation.

Davis made one of two free throws with 6.7 seconds left, giving the Lakers a two-point lead but leaving the door open for Kleber to close a three-pronged three-pointer for Dallas’ win over a stunned Lakers team achieve.

“I shot a bit to the right. After that point, we would have been three,” Davis said. “I’m still processing it. I mean, think about it, until three, even if he gets a three, overtime. … I mean, a great loss.”

This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.


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