The Los Angeles Lakers fell to the Los Angeles Clippers Saturday afternoon, 115-104. It looked like the game was over five minutes into the contest when the Clippers led 17-0. At that point, with nothing to lose, the coaches substituted Thomas Robinson for Julius Randle who triggered a quick turnaround that made a game of it. At halftime, the Lakers were down by only five points.
Unfortunately, the team started the third quarter as it began the game and thus the deficit was 21 points at the end of the third period. If most of the Lakers starters looked like they already checked out for summer vacation, someone forgot to tell the second unit as they fought and clawed all game to keep it competitive. They shaved the deficit to single digits with a strong start to the fourth quarter.
Blake Griffin and Chris Paul were unstoppable, finishing with a mostly effortless 36 and 29 points, respectively. For the Lakers, one change was that Larry Nance, Jr. started his first game of the season, but he and Brandon Ingram were in foul trouble and played fewer than 25 points apiece. One positive is that Nance and Randle are starting to shoot with more confidence from outside, as Randle made 2-3 from three point range and Nance hit multiple mid-range shots.
Here are three takeaways from the game.
1. D’Angelo Russell and Jordan Clarkson Should Be Embarrassed
Russell and Clarkson did not show up to play in this game. Clarkson scored only seven points, all in the first half, and made only 2-12 shots overall and 1-5 from three point range. It was almost as though Clarkson was not on the court in the second half, which is unusual.
It is hard to find the words to describe Russell’s game. He did not score his first points until less than two minutes were remaining in the game. He finished with two points on 1-9 from the field and 0-6 from three point range. He also had three turnovers.
Russell’s mind was certainly not on this game, which is another step back for a player who is supposed to be a team leader but whose wild inconsistency is only creating more doubters. Russell and Clarkson were outscored by the Clippers starting guards, 48-9. That was the deciding factor in this game.
2. Brandon Ingram Returned to the Line Up and Continued His Strong Play
Brandon Ingram returned to the court after missing three games with tendonitis in his knee. Far from being rusty, he continued the impressive play he began in earnest last month, when he started to resemble the number two overall pick in last summer’s draft. He made an array of outside shots and has seemingly reached a point where he is getting better and more confident with each game.
Ingram finished with 18 points on 7-14 from the field. He also had five rebounds, three assists, a steal and a block. He is one of the only starters who worked hard on defense, and he would have contributed even more if he weren’t in foul trouble or on a minutes restriction imposed by head coach Luke Walton.
As the front office looks to make changes this summer, there is a growing belief that Ingram is the only member of the current roster who may be untouchable.
3. Thomas Robinson and David Nwaba were outstanding
The Lakers did not score at all until nearly five minutes of the game had elapsed. They were down 17-0, and the rout was on. However, with 9:30 left in the second quarter, the Lakers were ahead by a point, 32-31. Similarly, when the team trailed by 21 points at the end of the third period, the lead was slashed to single digits a few minutes more.
In addition to solid contributions from Tyler Ennis and Tarik Black off the bench, what kept the Lakers in this contest, and allowed the team to keep the final score respectable were the outstanding performances of Thomas Robinson and David Nwaba.
Nwaba finished with a career high 19 points on 6-9 shooting. He got to the free throw line 10 times and made 7, and he had six rebounds and two steals in a team high 35 minutes. Robinson had a season high 16 points on 7-15 from the field. He also had nine rebounds (five on the offensive end) and three assists.
Nwaba, Robinson and Ennis understand that they are fighting for a roster spot next season, hopefully on the Lakers but if not then somewhere else. If everyone could play with that level of desperation and fire on a regular basis things could be different for the Lakers.