Despite Rajon Rondo’s triple-double, the Lakers dug themselves into a deeper whole in the Western Conference playoff race with a 113-105 loss to the Clippers on March 4.
“They’re in the top eight places for a reason.” Walton said after the loss. “They made plays down the stretch and you have to give them credit.”
The Lakers really desperately needed a win after over their crosstown-rival after losing four of five headed into the Clippers’ contest. L.A. sat 4.5 games out of the Western Conference’s eighth seed with 19 games left but that deficit gets even bigger now.
“It doesn’t change what our reality is,” Walton said about the loss impacting the rest of the season. “…It’s our job to get better tomorrow.”
Walton acknowledged the team’s long-shot battle for the playoffs but he didn’t count out his team.
“It’s tough to win games in this league,” The Lakers head coach said. “We got to come out and make it happen.”
As for Rondo, he became the second player ever to record a triple-double with five different teams. The veteran point guard finished with 24 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists which was his first triple-double in the Purple and Gold.
Rondo shot 10-of-14 from the field including 40 percent from three-point range.
The team needed his offensive impact with starting forward Brandon Ingram out due to a shoulder injury. Ingram joined Lance Stephenson and Tyson Chandler who missed the game. Lonzo Ball also missed his 17th straight game.
Kyle Kuzma also left this game in the third with an ankle injury. He finished with 13 points, six rebounds and one assist. It was the Lakers least points scored since Feb. 5.
Otherwise, Lebron James put up his numbers with 27 points, 8 rebounds and six assists. He still didn’t look like he was in playoff mode as he got his shot blocked and missed a few layups in crucial times.
James said it pretty much feels like it has been one thing after another this season with the Lakers dealing with many injuries to key guys. The 34-year-old played 42 minutes as the team only played eight guys.
“You keep playing til the end,” LeBron said about the team’s playoffs hopes moving forward. “You see what happens.”
Clippers push the Lakers farther down in the standings
Now, the Lakers are 5.5 games back out of the eighth seed and the postseason is getting farther away. The Clippers on the other hand are in the driver seat as the seven seed in the West.
“That doesn’t bother me,” Clippers head coach Doc Rivers said about the loss potentially eliminating the Lakers from the playoffs. “I just want us to do well.”
Rivers made the decision to put Patrick Beverly on James. Beverly scored 13 points, four assists and five steals. Rivers said his impact on the defensive was contagious, despite him guarding James who holds a size advantage.
“[Away from the basket] Pat’s size and quickness could have a factor,” Rivers said about the gamble of putting the smaller Beverly on LeBron. “That helped us.”
Ivica Zubac started for the Clippers versus his old team. Zubac finished with seven points, four rebounds and an assist in 14 minutes.
However, Montrezl Harrell looked like the best big on the floor. He registered 14 points and 11 rebounds in 34 minutes off the bench.
Danilo Gallinari was big too with 23 points and six rebounds. Gallinari went 9-of-15 from the field and 3-of-5 from deep in 28 minutes. As a whole, the Clippers shot 49 percent from the field and 38 percent from three-point range.
Otherwise, Lou Williams also chipped in 21 points and five assists off the bench. The Clippers bench outscored the Lakers 44 to 27.
“You know we have a deep group of guys that come in and out of that second group.” Williams said about he and Harrell’s performance off the bench.
The Lakers only significant contribution from the bench came via Josh Hart who had his best night since January. Hart concluded the night with 17 points and four rebounds.
More notes from the game
The Clippers started the game with an easy layup from Patrick Beverly right off the opening tip. It was a back and fourth first quarter until about six minutes left. A Rajon Rondo three-pointer gave the Lakers a 17-15. L.A.L. would lead by as much as 10 in the first quarter.
The second quarter started with the Lakers leading 26-34. With a little over two minutes left in the first half, Josh Hard drilled a three-pointer that tied the game at 52. Gallinari answered for the Clippers by converting a contested shot in the paint with the and-one free throw.
Next, James and Gallinari would exchange threes making the game 57-55 with the Clippers leading. That would just about do it as the Lakers headed to halftime down four.
James had 17 points at the half while Rondo had 11 points, six rebounds and six assists but the team shot just 38 percent from the field.
It was more back and forth through the third quarter. Until Rondo hit a layup to give the Lakers a tie at 79 with about three minutes left in the third. Josh Hart then scored a transition layup and converted a free-throw shot to give the Lakers a three point lead after a Harrell. Still, L. A. C. would convert a three from Landry Shamet which tied the game back at 82.
Nonetheless, the Clippers kept control with a 7-0 run in the last two minutes in the third. The Clippers stretched it 13-3 run as the Lakers trailed by as much as twelve with ten minutes left in the game.
L.A.L. would make another run to bring the game within six, 99-93, with about eight minutes left. That was the Lakers last run. The game would finish at 113-106.
The Lakers have another tough home game with the Western Conference’s No. 2 seeded Denver Nuggets coming into town for a game Wednesday.