LOS ANGELES — Disaster averted. Barely.
LeBron James made one of two free throws with 2.1 seconds left Wednesday night as the Los Angeles Lakers held off the Dallas Mavericks 114-113 after nearly blowing a 19-point lead in the second half.
The defeat would have been painful for the Lakers, who improved to 3-5 but continue to struggle during James’ inaugural season with the team.
James, who missed two free throws late in overtime of a loss to the San Antonio Spurs last week, missed his first free throw with the score tied 113-113. With the tension cresting at Staples Center, James hit his second free throw and Dallas’ J.J. Barea missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
James addressed the team’s difficulties in closing out games, with the Lakers having lost two games by four points and a third in overtime.
“Listen, I’m extremely happy we’re going through it,” he said. “You can talk about it, you can preach about it, you can watch film about it, but the best teacher in life is experience. And it’s great these young guys are getting experience of playing these tight, close games and then tonight we was on the other side of it.
“… Same situation against San Antonio, we lost. Same situation happened tonight, we won. So it’s great to learn from it.”
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Dallas was on a 15-2 run before the free throw by James, who had a game-high 29 points, six assists and five rebounds.
The Lakers took a 19-point lead at 87-69 when Lonzo Ball made a 3-pointer with 4:40 left to play in the third quarter. Los Angeles led by 14 with 4:16 left in the fourth.
James also blamed himself for committing a cardinal sin in the fourth quarter when he gave up a wide-open 3-pointer to Harrison Barnes.
“That just can’t happen,” he said. “You can put that one on me.”
Follow Josh Peter on Twitter @joshlpeter11.