L.A.

Despite late surge, Lakers falter late against 76ers 118-116

Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/Getty Images

LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Lakers fell back to some familiar territory coming short against the Philadelphia 76ers 118-116. 

It was a back-and-forth contest throughout in a high-scoring affair, however, Philadelphia pulled away in the final. Here a few takeaways from Sunday’s loss:

Defensive Woes

With the Lakers’ trekking that much closer to yet another season missing the playoffs, one of their biggest issues throughout the year has been their often times subpar defensively. 

Their issues persisted against Philadelphia, who scored 118 points on 51.9 shooting from the field. It marked the 56th time that they have allowed 100 or more points to an opponent this season.

76ers were able to dictate the flow of the game, especially in the first half scoring 65 points behind a pair of 30-point quarters while shooting 54.8 percent shooting from the field with Dario Saric and Timothe Lawawu-Cabarrot combining for 29 points. 

Things didn’t change in the second half with Philadelphia shooting 48.6 percent while stretching their lead to many as 12 points. Los Angeles was able to erase the deficit late in the fourth quarter, but their struggles defensively came back to haunt them in the end.

If the Lakers hope to see any significant change, it will have to begin on the defensive end of the floor. 

Saric dominates

It was yet another opponent that saw an opposing player go off for a career night against the Lakers.

On Sunday night, it was Saric putting together his best offensive performance with a career-high 29 points along with seven rebounds and five assists. He led the charge for the 76ers leading them in scoring and was especially huge late recording six points in the final three minutes of the game. 

“This is the first time I played here in Staples against the legendary Lakers,” Saric said. “I had the opportunity to beat them here in their arena and it means a lot. I watched Kobe and Magic Johnson videos and now I’m playing in front of these fans. I played a good game and I’m happy.”

This strong outing comes a game after tying his previous career high of 28 points against the Portland Trail Blazers. Saric has picked up his play in the last 14 games ahead of Sunday’s contest averaging a team-best 19.4 points on 47.7 with 8.1 rebounds. He joined only Giannis Antetokounmpo, DeMarcus Cousins, LeBron James and Russell Westbrook to average those numbers. 

More importantly, what this big night from Saric further signified the extent of the Lakers’ continued struggles defensively. 

Clarkson’s Offensive Surge

Throughout the season, the Lakers have held one of the highest scoring benches in the league.

Despite the departure of Lou Willaims last month at the trade deadline, Jordan Clarkson has stepped in his place as the one constant off the bench. This was on display once again on Sunday night as he notched a game-high 30 points against the 76ers, which also tied his career along with eight assists and six rebounds. 

The third-year guard was a major factor helping keep the Lakers close throughout the game. However, the team’s inability to get any consistent stops on the defensive end of the floor prevented Clarkson’s production from being the difference maker. 

He played a large role in the final few minutes with a couple of key buckets to give the Lakers the lead but missed a free throw in the last 15 seconds that would have closed the gap to one point. That said, head coach Luke Walton was impressed by Clarkson’s overall performance. 

“Tonight he put it all together obviously,” Walton said. “I thought he did a great job of scoring when appropriate and playmaking when appropriate.”

Prior to Sunday’s contest, 24-year-old had seen a surge in his offensive output averaging 17.4 points, 2.6 assists in 30.3 minutes off the bench. 

“It’s been a slow process, but it’s coming,” Clarkson said. “I’ve been watching film just trying to figure it out. I’m been in different roles the past two years even this year, it’s kind of changing for me.”

Clarkson will have an opportunity to build off this upward trend on Tuesday night on the road against the Denver Nuggets. 

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Bob Garcia IV

Bob Garcia IV is a sports journalist from Southern California. He's currently the Los Angeles Lakers beat writer for Sports Out West. He was previously the beat writer for LA Rams Report for Scout.com, which is a website dedicated to covering the Rams. Lastly, he was a reporter for the award-winning newspaper, The Daily Sundial, at California State University, Northridge. You can follow him on Twitter, @BGarcia90.
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