The Los Angeles Lakers were able to squeak out a big win over the Los Angeles Clippers in their first game back. Here are three takeaways from the win.
The Los Angeles Lakers pulled off a nail-biting win against the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday night, 103-101, thanks to LeBron James’ putback shot from inches away from the rim and some impressive defense on Kawhi Leonard with seconds left in the game.
James finished the game with 16 points, 11 rebounds, and seven assists on 6-for-19 shooting, while Anthony Davis led the way for the Lakers with 34 points and 8 rebounds on 8-for-19 shooting and 16-for-17 at the free throw line.
The Lakers’ bench looked alive in some spurts with Kyle Kuzma contributing 16 points in 32 minutes, Dion Waiters with 11 points in 21 minutes, and Alex Caruso with 7 points in 28 minutes.
The Clippers’ duo of Leonard and Paul George deserve immense credit for stepping up while Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell couldn’t play. Leonard finished with 28 points while George finished with 30 points, including six 3-pointers.
The bench for the Clippers was missing the big contributions of Williams and Harrell, who average about 30 points combined a game. Patrick Beverly, the normal starting point guard, finished with 12 points on 3-for-7 shooting. The rest of the bench had 19 points combined.
The three takeaways I have from this game are simple: the Lakers might be in trouble, the Clippers need more from their role players, and both teams need to tighten up their play in order to win it all.
Lakers in trouble
The Lakers might be in trouble because they struggled a lot against the Clippers. As a team, they shot 39 percent from the field, almost 31 percent from three, and almost 76 percent from the line. They attempted 82 shots, with 36 of those being three-pointers, and some of them were low-percentage shots in traffic.
They also played to the Clippers strengths all night playing too fast and they didn’t take advantage of their length past the first half. Waiters and Kuzma’s contributions will hopefully be consistent for them, but in the case that they aren’t, the Lakers have to find better ways of scoring while Davis and James are on the bench. It’s safe to say the Lakers got lucky with this win.
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Clippers’ role players need to do more
Of the 101 points the Clippers scored, 58 of those points came from Leonard and George. Marcus Morris, Sr. had no points, Ivica Zubac had two points, and Reggie Jackson had 10 points. The bench altogether had 31 points. Beverly’s 12 points, Jackson’s 10 points, JaMychal Green’s 8 points, and Patrick Patterson’s 5 points is what you can live with.
Joakim Noah finished with one point, and that is something you can expect. Landry Shamet has to score more than two points in 22 minutes of play, Zubac needs to score more than two points in 15 minutes of play, and Morris needs to score something if he’s going to play consistent minutes. The team was facing foul trouble, and that is a big factor in the rotation, but that’s where the other players have to feel obligated to step up. The Clippers shot 28 free throws as a team, so they had the Lakers in foul trouble as well. The majority of first quarter had both teams in the bonus.
Sloppy play means early exit
Both teams didn’t play well with the ball. Both teams weren’t able to score as they usually do or play the game that they were getting in the rhythm of during the regular season earlier this year. The Clippers had 20 turnovers, about a dozen of those in the first half, and the Lakers had 16 turnovers. Both teams also committed way too many silly fouls. At the end, it will come down to who is able to share the ball better, who is able to shoot better, and who can take advantage of the depth their team has. Both teams have a solid 10 to 12 player rotation they can use for scoring at will as well as defending the perimeter and the paint. Both teams have a solid coaching staff that can mix things up from time to time.
When it is all said and done, the Lakers and the Clippers are both powerhouses in the same city and they tied the season series 2-2. Going into the playoffs, if we’re able to see a 7-game series against the two teams, it’s going to be a thriller. It’s the first game back after four months and there is still seven games to go before the bubble postseason. Grab your popcorn.