LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Clippers continued their dominance over the Los Angeles Lakers extending their win streak to nine straights contest on Friday edging them 105-93.
It was a back and forth contest in the first half with the seven lead changes. Clippers led by as much as eight points behind Chris Paul posting first-half highs with 13 points and five assists while the team shot 51.3 percent. Jordan Clarkson was the only Lakers’ player in double figures in the first half with 11 points. Julius Randle had a near double-double with eight points and nine rebounds.
The Lakers temporarily grabbed a 63-59 midway through the third quarter, which was their largest lead of the game, but the Clippers quickly responded with a 13-0 run to regain control and held a comfortable lead throughout the remainder of the contest.
In the loss, Randle finished with a career-high 23 points along with 14 rebounds Clarkson finished with 17 points and eight rebounds. Lou Williams had 11 points and six rebounds.
With the Lakers falling their ninth straight overall this season, here are five things we learned from Friday’s game:
No Kobe, same result
The 37-year-old sat out for the 10th game of the season, but Friday’s game was due to rest purposes playing the second night of a back-to-back. In his place rookie forward Anthony Brown got the start on he scoring just five points on 1-of-5 shooting with four rebounds, and two assists.
With Bryant out of the lineup, Brown was the only starter to fail to reach double-digit points. He nailed the game’s first field goal but struggled from them on to find any rhythm throughout the game.
All in all, Bryant in the lineup would of likely not made a difference in the result of the game but him missing the occasional will be a familiar sight as he continues to deal with a sore shoulder through the remainder of his final season in the NBA.
Paul continues to light Lakers up
Fresh off his ninth straight All-Star Game nod, Paul faced a franchise that he’s had plenty success against boasting the highest assists per game average (11.5) and second-highest steal (2.5) among all players that have played the Lakers at least times in the last 30 years.
His high of production continued against the Lakers as Paul led the charge in the first half leading all scorers with 13 points along with dishing out five assists. This includes an impressive behind the back pass to find Wesley Johnson for a layup and a one-handed lob to DeAndre Jordan for the alley-oop dunk.
Paul continued to light it up in the second half with 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting with seven coming each of the final two quarters.
“How he controls the whole game. When it comes down to crunch time everything is wide open,” Russell said of difficulties guarding Paul. “You notice that about every dominate guard. They try to control the game early.”
It has been another highly productive campaign in his 11th campaign in the league averaging 18.6 points while ranking fourth with 9.6 assists and sixth with 2.1 steals. Paul has also been hitting all cylinders since the calendar flipped to 2016 averaging 20.8 points and 11.0 assists per game in January entering Friday night. This includes recording eight of his 21 double-doubles for the season and a steal in each contest in the month.
Paul has been the steadying force for the Clippers since his arrival and even with Griffin sidelined this season. With the 31-year-old at the helm, Los Angeles can expect to remain in the playoff picture until their other All-Star returns in a month.
Defending the paint
The Lakers entering Friday’s game ranked as the worst team in the league defending the team paint giving up 46.8 points and were coming off a game allowing the Chicago Bulls to tallying 56 points in their last game.
Although they had arguably the best matchup against a Clippers’ team that has averaged the lowest points in the paint (36.6), this issue continued to persist allowing 48 points.
The Lakers struggled in the first quarter allowing the Clippers to score 16 of their 28 points in the quarter in the paint. They continued to have difficulty defending the paint in the second half giving up over 20 points in the key.
It has become one of the Lakers most pressing issues defensive with the lack of defense around the perimeter from the guards that has led to higher percentage shots in the paint. This is certainly something that needs to be addressed in the offseason.
Randle still producing
Since being reinserted into the starting lineup in early January, Randle has continued to produce as he notched his 17th double-double of the season with a career-high 23 points and 14 rebounds against the Clippers on Friday night.
Randle was active in the first half posting a near double-double with eight points and led the team with nine rebounds, including six boards in the second quarter. Randle scored 15 points in the second half, including 11 points in the fourth quarter. It was one of his best shooting performances of the season, but he still honed on his game-high six turnovers in the loss.
“I just let it come to me. I didn’t force anything,” Randle said. “I took what was available to me. I still had too many turnovers. That’s just the tough part about it. I was just confident about what I was doing.”
Despite performing quite well in his second go around as the starting power forward, Scott noted after Friday’s loss that Larry Nance Jr. is still the starter and could be back in the lineup as soon as Sunday night against the Charlotte Hornets.
The Lakers may be one of the league’s bottom dwelling teams in terms of record, but the 21-year-old has continued to produce when given the opportunity ranking first among rookies and second-year players in double-doubles.
Heading into Friday’s game he had a Lakers-best 450 rebounds, and is first among sophomore players along with being ninth overall in the NBA in total rebounds. Randle is also fourth in defensive rebounding percentage (30.4) and 12th in total rebounding percentage (19.1).
All in all, Randle has had his bumps in the road, in particular, his defense, as expected but has continued to be a productive player.
Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers
Despite holding one of the worst records in the league, the Lakers have surprisingly been on the better teams in the league handling the ball ranking 11th with just 13.4 turnovers a game.
This wasn’t the case against the Clippers turning the ball over 17 that were converted to 28 points. It’s something that Scott harped on following the loss.
“When you give up 17 turnovers for 28 points, that is a big number to overcome,” Scott said. “I thought we played pretty well, and played hard, and we competed, but the margin for error was so slim we couldn’t afford to give that many possessions away.”
Although turnovers haven’t been an issue this season, but when this does become a problem it makes that much more difficult to etch out wins, especially when they hold one of the league’s worst defenses allowing giving up 106.4 points per game.