LeBron hopes Lakers can build on win vs. Clippers
LOS ANGELES — Clippers guard Norman Powell’s last-second 3-pointer rimmed out at the buzzer and the Los Angeles Lakers were able to snap a four-game skid with a 106-103 win Sunday, providing a sigh of relief for a team that had been in a tailspin.
“Try to use this to try to catapult a little bit better play from us,” LeBron James, who led all scorers with 25 points, said after the game at Crypto.com Arena. “But it still doesn’t take away from the fact of how we’ve been playing like the last 11, 12 games. Tonight was a good start. Hopefully we can start from here and continue to build.”
The Lakers’ shaky play actually extended back 13 games, as they were just 3-10 since winning the in-season tournament coming into Sunday.
Beyond better execution — holding a Clippers team that was 14-2 in its past 16 games to just 39.6% shooting — the Lakers also benefited from more healthy bodies for coach Darvin Ham to use in his rotation.
D’Angelo Russell returned from a three-game absence because of a bruised tailbone to contribute 13 points and 6 assists off the bench — with 11 of those points coming in the second half — and Jarred Vanderbilt, who has been hampered by an injured left heel, looked like the type of impact player on the defensive end who was so important in L.A.’s run to the conference finals last spring.
Not to mention, Christian Wood (9 points, 10 rebounds, 2 blocks) and Max Christie (7 points, 3 rebounds, 2 blocks) also had strong games to help the Lakers’ bench outscore the Clippers’ reserves 31-23.
“All those guys helped us win, made some big shots, timely plays, and that’s what we need,” said Anthony Davis, who had 22 points and 10 rebounds. “It takes ‘the others’ to win championships and win basketball games. And these guys played phenomenal tonight. And when these guys are playing well, it just makes me and Bron’s job a lot easier.”
Ham said the top-to-bottom team effort has to be the Lakers’ standard going forward.
“Everybody contributed, competed at a very high level,” Ham said. “And I’m proud of them. Now the cat’s out the bag for this one, in terms of how we need to approach each and every game and everybody do it as a committee.”
James said the Lakers had “too many mistakes still” to believe they’ve turned everything around in a macro sense. Taurean Prince got an individual shot at redemption in a micro sense when he fouled Powell on a 3-pointer with 2:19 remaining in the fourth, allowing the Clippers guard to tie the game with three free throws, but then hit a 3 of his own and two more free throws in the final 1:17 to help the Lakers win.
“I made that big mistake. … I just totally misjudged it,” Prince said of the foul on Powell. “So I immediately told myself I want to get that play back and the opportunity came and I just took advantage of it.”
The Lakers were helped by Kawhi Leonard having a rare off night, missing 11 of 17 shots, including 5 of 7 from behind the arc, for 15 points. Leonard came into the game averaging 24.4 points and 52.1% shooting from the field.
Leonard also sat from the 2:47 mark in the fourth quarter until there were just 17 seconds remaining in a tight game because of a minutes restriction. Leonard, who played 35 minutes, was subbed out for Terance Mann with 2:47 left and the Lakers up 98-95. When he returned with 17 seconds to go, the Lakers led 103-101.
The Clippers host the Phoenix Suns on Monday, the second night of a back-to-back, and this was Leonard’s fourth game back after missing four because of a hip injury.
“He was close to his minutes restriction, and we got a back-to-back tomorrow,” Clippers coach Ty Lue said. “We got five games in eight days, so my thought was we need him in the game [earlier in the fourth] because the game kind of got away from us a little bit. … He had to play his extended minutes early in the quarter instead of late in the quarter. So that’s on me as a decision that I made to get him in early to come back.”
Leonard said he understood why Lue had to sit him in the crux of a tight game.
While Lue held himself accountable for Leonard’s minutes, James endorsed his former Cleveland Cavaliers coach, taking umbrage with a reporter labeling the Lakers’ in-city rivals as the “James Harden Clippers” by instead naming them after the coach.
“Nah, it’s the T-Lue Clippers,” James said. “I know T-Lue very well. It don’t take T-Lue long to make sure s— get right. It took him five games, and they’ve been cooking since.”
ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk contributed to this report.