LOS ANGELES—The Lakers (20-51) gave up another early lead and thanks to a porous defense, extended their losing streak to six games following their lackluster effort against the rival Los Angeles Clippers (43-29).
Chris Paul and the Clippers jumped right out of the gate with a 13-2 run. By the end of the first quarter, his mark was all over the game, with 12 points, three rebounds and three assists. By the end of the third quarter, he had a game-high 27 points and was enjoying the entire final period on the bench with his son in his lap. He took note of the Clippers stellar first half defense that propelled them to victory.
”When we get stops like that, we’re dangerous,” said Paul following the game.
While CP3 was enjoying family time with his son, Lakers head coach Luke Walton was fuming over his team’s lack of effort. After surrendering 70 first half points and a 30-point deficit, Walton sent a message to his starters. All of the starters were benched when the second half opened as reserve players Corey Brewer, Tyler Ennis, Tarik Black, David Nwaba and Thomas Robinson took the floor. After the game, Walton expressed discontent over his starters effort.
“Playing without a certain amount of effort isn’t going to be acceptable or tolerated,” Walton said. “They’ve done a great job the last game and a half. Obviously we’ve had a lot of downs. To come out in front of our home fans and give out that type of effort wasn’t OK. It’s not right. We went with five guys that we thought would play really hard.”
Robinson provided a spark, scoring 16 points in 10 minutes, and the Lakers began to pick up the pace as they scored over 70 second half points. Brandon Ingram, who has been playing well as of late, scored 21 points. Julius Randle and D’Angelo Russell chipped in with 19 and 18 points respectively. However, most of these points came in garbage time as the lead proved too much to overcome. While Walton was lamenting his team’s defense, Clippers head coach Doc Rivers praised his team’s first half defense that put them in a position to play to their strengths.
“I like our pace right now. More importantly I like the way we defended in the first half” said Rivers. He continued to say, “Everybody has an identity and ours is length and athleticism. The only way we can use that is by getting stops, and when this teams gets multiple stops in a row, then we become athletic.”
The loss drops the Lakers to 1-2 versus the rival Clippers who, with the win, moved a half game back of the Jazz for the fourth seed in the Western conference. The Lakers have a firm hold of the second worst record in the league, which increases their chances of holding onto their first round pick. If the lottery places them with one of the top three picks, they’ll avoid losing it to Philadelphia. After being eliminated from playoff contention earlier this week, that’s about all the Lakers can salvage from this season.
The Clippers will continue their fight for the four seed, and home field advantage in the first round, when they travel to Dallas to take on the Mavericks on Thursday. The Lakers don’t play again until Friday, when they’ll take on the Timberwolves in the first of three remaining games against Minnesota.