Los Angeles, CA— Despite trailing in the fourth, round two of the battle of Los Angeles goes to the Clippers (23-10) as they defeated their conference rivals, the LA Lakers (24-7), 111-106.
Second Half Push
The Clippers had a solid first half. They were only down 12 (63-51) going into the locker room break. However, there were some things in the first half that wasn’t the type of basketball we are accustomed to seeing from the red, white and blue.
For a team that averages 51 points per game from their bench, which is tops in the league, the “others” only provided 12 points. Paul George had a lackadaisical first half (seven points on 3-for-10 shooting). They were outplayed in that first half.
The only thing that they had looming over their rivals from across the hall in the first half were points in the paint (34-22) and the fact that Kawhi Leonard was yet again a man on a mission (18 points, seven rebounds).
Yet, in the second half, the LA Clippers outscored the Lakers 60-43. 35 of those points came in the third period. The adage goes: When the captain doesn’t panic, neither do the troops.
Doc Rivers and Leonard did not panic. The Clippers were Heavyweight Champion Deontay Wilder in this contest when he says, “I only have to be great for couple seconds.” That’s what happened tonight.
The Clippers put together a great half to close out this one. They stayed true to themselves and took advantage of a sloppy Lakers team in the second half. What we witnessed to close the game is why you say this team can win it all.
Who’s your five?
Lakers have two looming problems and it’s been shown plenty of times this season.
They don’t have a five that they can put on the floor where they’re confident they can take them across the finish line. The silver lining with that is that it’s game 31 of the season. Enough time to figure that out. The bad news about that statement. It’s game 31… and you’re still trying to figure that out.
You have LeBron James and Anthony Davis and then it’s a crap shoot. They try Dwight Howard to go big, then he makes dumb mistakes. So, you go with Rajon Rondo. You play Kyle Kuzma, who’s on the “hot seat” for whatever that’s worth and he had a big night (25 points, 8-for-17 shooting).
But you’re not confident in five players that you can say will finish a game. The fact the Clippers know who their starting five is and the Lakers don’t is concerning.
Failed to Close
The Lakers play a lead. This team is so talented and when they get rolling there’s no team in the league that can stop them. However, they expect teams to lie down against them.
In addition, when they fall behind, they look for their talent to pull them through like Anthony Davis (24 points, six rebounds, three assist, two steals, two blocks on 8-for-17 shooting) or LeBron James (23 points, nine boards, 10 assists). However, when they can’t do it, you lose confidence in this team.
It’s fine to coast and win against the Dallas Mavericks and Miami Heat. They’re the amateur decathlon. But in the two teams you’ve faced with aspirations of winning a title, that are the big leagues, it’s not going to work.
One day this is going to bite them. You hope it’s not in a deciding game of the playoffs. Even with Leonard finishing with 35 points, from the stats, pace of play, strategy and energy the Lakers should’ve won by double-digits. You have to close.
Protect Your Throne
In addition, that final play from LeBron James was unacceptable.
James had a great fourth quarter, but everyone will remember his last play. The second to last possession James had 20.5 seconds left and you pull a Steve Francis. He let about 17 seconds go before putting up a basket. No timeout call, no closing mentality, no confidence.
If you’re LeBron, you can’t come out and say the game doesn’t matter.
Especially in a game everyone has marked on their calendar. It’s the battle of an entire city. Leonard says it’s his town and he’s the king. This was a game where James and the Lakers could’ve put their foot down… they failed.
The Lakers will look to get back on the winning side of things as they’ll head to Portland to face the Trail Blazers on Dec. 28.
The Clippers will look to continue their winning ways as they’ll face the Utah Jazz on Dec. 28.