LOS ANGELES – Did the Los Angeles Clippers prove anything by beating a Los Angeles Lakers squad minus one of its superstars and saw another go down with an injury in this highly anticipated May 6 matchup at STAPLES Center? Actually, with guard Dennis Schroder, LeBron James out of the lineup and Anthony Davis forced to leave the game early, the Clippers rolled to an easy 118-94 win.
So what does this win mean to the Clippers? It means the game would have been even more lopsided if the Clippers had not turned the ball over 22 times. On the other side, the Lakers, even without their two main ballhandlers in Schroder and James, managed to just commit 10 turnovers in the game. Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue didn’t blink on calling out his team’s sloppy play.
“I just think we are messing around too much, we got to be a more disciplined, more solid team, which we have been all season,” Lue said after the game. “Just lately turning the basketball over, messing around with the game a little too much.”
Kawhi Leonard, who finished the game with 15 points, and Paul George, who posted a team-high 24 points, were both credited with five turnovers apiece. Leonard said some of that can be attributed to aggression. But he added that the team can do better protecting the basketball.
“I mean, I think we will be alright,” Leonard said. “Two of my turnovers were offensive fouls, so I mean, that’s just being aggressive, being physical. The one in the fourth quarter was just my mistake, not staying locked in being up 20 points. We can live with that, but we can’t just be passing the team the basketball and letting them come down in transition and shooting threes or getting layups.”
With a depleted Lakers (37-29) team spiraling towards the playoff play-in tournament, the Clippers (45-22) did little to help them out as their slide in the Western Conference continues after taking a rough and tumble beating Thursday night.
By defeating the Lakers, the Clippers is working on establishing a dominant presence against their city rivals. The Clippers have beaten the Lakers in all three games they have played against one another this season. Last season, the two ballclubs split the four games they played.
For the Lakers, another injury to a star player only raises more concerns about their repeat chances as NBA champs as the final week of the season approaches.
Late in the first quarter, Davis slumped over next to the announcer’s table and reached for his ankle in pain as he grimaced before being able to get up and walk to the locker room under his own power. Davis was only on the court for the first nine minutes of the game and recorded just four points on 2-9 shooting before his night was done due to the ankle injury.
“I know it looked bad, but it’s fine,” Davis said regarding the tweak of his ankle. “When we’re 100% healthy we are the top team in the league, so we keep that in our minds,” Davis said.
While the Lakers may be a formidable matchup when they are healthy, the early exit of Davis proved to be the dagger early as the Clippers took full advantage of going up against one less star on the court. The Lakers also took the court with LeBron James sitting out the contest as he nurses a high ankle sprain injury he suffered earlier in the season.
For the Clippers, their latest win against the Lakers was not as a result of a one-man show. With all five starters scoring in double figures, the Clippers were able to run away from the Lakers with a balanced effort across the board. George scored all of his points in the last three quarters. Reggie Jackson (10 points), Marcus Morris Sr. (10 points) and center Ivica Zubac (14 points) did their part to help George and Leonard.
Help off the bench, in the form of veterans DeMarcus Cousins and Rajon Rondo also proved big, as both scored 11 points, combining for 22 of the teams 45 bench points on the night.
I’m a lot more comfortable and used to it with the things going on with this team and on the floor, the play calls, defensive schemes and whatever the case may be,” Cousins said about fitting into the rotation. “Obviously that took time and trying to learn things on the fly in joining this team in the middle of the season. So obviously those things are easier but just trying to do my part.”
For Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue, despite the big-time win, Lue still feels the team needs to work on taking care of the ball as the team committed 22 turnovers on the night which included 12 of those in the first half.
We didn’t really respect the game, especially in the second half,” Lue said. “No matter who you are playing you still got to work on your habits, you still have to do the right thing. We talked about the [Lakers] not having ball handlers, they have 11 turnovers, we have 22 and they have 30 points off of them, so we just got to be more professional for what we are trying to do and what we are trying to build here no matter who we are playing.”
As the final week of the season approaches, the Clippers know there will be no time to mess around as the playoffs are right around the corner. In reference to the play of Cousins and other reserves, George said solid play from the bench is going to be important to the team’s postseason success.
“Yeah, they’ve been students of the game, they’ve been trying to get up to speed,” George said. “It has been a quick turnaround for [DeMarcus Cousins], but [Terance Mann] and [Luke Kennard] all year they’ve been studying, they’ve been doing their work on trying to figure out the system, learn as much as they can, and just soak up as much as they can from the veterans.”