LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Lakers entered Friday night’s tilt against the Indiana Pacers a bit short-handed with three of their key players out of the mix due to injury.
In fact, it included two out of their top four scorers in second-year forward Brandon Ingram (15.9 points) and veteran guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (13.7) were sidelined with respective leg injuries. Meanwhile, rookie point guard Lonzo Ball, who has been their primary ball-handler and orchestrator of the offense, missed his third straight game to due to a sore knee.
Despite all of that, veteran guard Jordan Clarkson stepped up to fill the massive offensive void against the Pacers leading the Lakers to a 99-86 home win behind a season-high 33 points.
Clarkson picked up the slack off the bench with an efficient shooting performance going 14-of-19 from the field along with 3-of-6 from beyond the arc while flirting with a triple-double with seven rebounds, and seven assists. It also marked his fifth career game with at least 30 points and was just two shy of tying his career high.
He had most of his production in the second half with 18 points including 16 coming in the fourth quarter that helped counter Victor Oladipo‘s team-high 25 points that saw 14 occurring in the second half alone. He was a perfect 6-of-6 shooting from the field in the final period drilling all three of 3-pointers that helped Los Angeles cruise to a double-digit win.
“The rim liked me,” Clarkson said. ” I went in, my teammates were getting me open, [and I was] just making shots.”
This outing off the bench also put him alongside Lou Williams as well as Hall of Famers Magic Johnson and James Worthy in the last 30 seasons to have at least 30 points, five rebounds, and five assists as a reserve in a single game. Clarkson has accomplished that feat in his career twice.
“I kind of expect him to hit every mid-range shot he takes,” Rookie forward Kyle Kuzma said. “I think he’s a pretty good shooter. He got it cooking tonight and we definitely needed it.”
It was a performance that head coach Luke Walton didn’t see anything out of the norm from Clarkson, but does think his strong outing was a result one simple thing.
“To me guys normally have nights like that when they stop thinking about offense,” Walton said. “They have a lot of talented guards on that team. When you kind of get lost in doing other things and you’re as gifted as he is offensively, that’s when you have nights like that.”
In his fourth season in the league, Clarkson has shown much comfort in his role off the bench as the team’s unquestioned Sixth Man averaging 14.0 points per game while shooting 45 percent from the field and 33.5 percent from beyond the arc in 45 games played with 43 of those coming off the bench.
He has fully embraced that role as he’s scored in double figures 28 times while his 589 points as a reserve are second-most in the league this season. With nearly still half of the season to play, Clarkson can build upon his strong campaign as the clear-cut Sixth Man.
Bob Garcia IV
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