LOS ANGELES, CA-There were a couple of things that contributed to the Los Angeles Lakers dropping their home game against the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center on Friday night. Clippers guard Lou Williams was the chief reason. The Lakers, entering the contest without the services of LeBron James, Rajon Rondo, Javale McGee, and Michael Beasley, played well enough for two and a half quarters.
Then the bottom fell out. Williams and the Clippers flexed their scoring muscles late in the third quarter and fourth period to win this Western Conference Pacific Division meeting between the two clubs, 118-107. Sparked by a 22-0 run, the Clippers turned the game around in a blink of an eye in the final 19 minutes of the ballgame.
“I think they did a better job of just buckling down; they made the game scrappy,” said Lakers center Tyson Chandler. “They put in a unit that started switching off on us. [They were] just a little bit more aggressive than us and they were able to get out with the lead.”
The Lakers, playing the second of back-to-back games, looked like the team with the more fresher legs, staking out a 10-point lead with just over seven minutes left to play in the third quarter. Up until that point, Williams had a rather pedestrian game, going for 13 points in the first two periods of basketball.
Kyle Kuzma (24 points and eight rebounds) and Brandon Ingram (17 points and seven rebounds) were doing just enough to facilitate the pace of the game and kind of pushed the Clippers in their double-digit deficit in the third quarter.
Lonzo Ball also had a big night for the Lakers, scoring 19 points and adding six assists. But just when it appeared the Lakers might be getting back some of that mojo they lost in their last-second defeat to the Sacramento Kings a just day earlier, Williams and the Clippers clapped back that push with a 14-point scoring edge in the second half to claim their 21st win (21-14) of the season.
Williams scored nine of his game-high 36 points in the third quarter when the Clippers made their push to go from being down to taking a two-point advantage into the fourth period. Williams dropped 14 points in the fourth quarter, helping the Clippers to a 36-27 scoring edge in the period.
“We were just a little sluggish; I think we were just a step slow,” Williams said. “We knew they were on a back-to-back. I don’t know, for whatever reason, we just weren’t playing our best basketball. I thought we put a good stretch together in the third and then busted the game wide open in the fourth.”
Behind Williams, the Clippers flipped from being down to a 16-point lead with a few ticks away from the nine-minute mark in the fourth quarter. In a blink, the Lakers saw what looked like a potential victory against their city and Pacific Division rivals into the second of two straight defeats.
Besides not being able to slow down the hot-shooting Williams, the Lakers didn’t help themselves with 17 turnovers. All 17 of those miscues came after the first quarter with eight coming in the pivotal third quarter when the Clippers made their move.
“We can’t turn the ball over; we had way too many turnovers,” Walton said. “I thought at times we played unselfish and at times we didn’t make that extra pass or that open pass when that pass was meant to be made. Those are things we can control. We shot under 70 percent from the free throw line; they shot 90 percent from the free throw line. Even if we played a great game and one team shoots 90 [percent] from the line and the other team shoots 68, it’s going to be hard to win that game. There’s things that we can do to give ourselves a better chance to win the game-making free throws, less turnovers, continue to move and share the ball, trust the pass-and when we do that, we’re pretty good.”
Ball said the 14 turnovers that came after halftime came about because there was a lack of concentration.
“Lack of focus,” Ball said. “I don’t think they were doing too much to force it. I mean, they were [applying defensive pressure], but we were making some dumb passes, dribbling the ball too high and just making careless turnovers.”