LOS ANGELES — For the Lakers, Anthony Davis and Rui Hachimura are on their way. Perhaps as soon as Wednesday night, according to a TNT report.
But for Tuesday night’s game against the Clippers, both of the key frontcourt pieces that could help during the stretch run could only watch, folding their arms from their courtside seats.
The Clippers have owned the Battle of L.A. for the past three years, and they owned it again on Tuesday in a 133-115 win at Crypto.com Arena – using an unconscionable 3-point shooting display to get ahead in the first half, then closing the door in the second with both of their stars on the floor.
Point guard Paul George had 27 points and nine rebounds, and Kawhi Leonard had 25 points and nine rebounds as the Clippers – using this starting lineup for only the fourth time and not even being able to finish with the same group – gutted out their 10th straight victory against their in-city rivals (five of which have been decided by 10 points or more).
The Clippers made 15 of their 19 total 3-pointers before halftime to log their third straight victory and move into fifth place in the Western Conference standings. Clippers coach Ty Lue has been the constant during the streak, with a perfect 10-0 record since he took over from Doc Rivers in 2020.
Neither of the Clippers stars was the best player on the floor: LeBron James was a force for the Lakers, scoring 46 points and making all kinds of history as he continues his torrid pursuit of the NBA’s all-time scoring record.
James’ 101st career 40-point game (including the postseason) leaves him 178 short of breaking Abdul-Jabbar’s regular-season mark (38,387 points), putting him in position to potentially break the record toward the end of the Lakers’ upcoming five-game road trip instead of at home.
The home crowd got riled up in the fourth quarter as the once 23-point Clipper lead was whittled by a pair of James dunks and his ninth 3-pointer. The sequence made James the first player to score at least 40 points against all 30 NBA franchises, and the 3-pointer set his new single-game career-high for 3-pointers. It was James’ fourth game of at least 40 points since he turned 38 on Dec. 30.
The Lakers, who never led, cut the deficit to 10 points thanks to an 11-0 run. But critical turnovers undercut the effort – Russell Westbrook threw an inbounds lob that was intercepted by George, and while it seemed Dennis Schröder might recover it on the other end, Leonard got the steal and drew an and-1 foul on the basket to stem the rising threat.
Reggie Jackson (19 points) added a 3-pointer and Leonard added a dunk to push the lead back to 18 points with five minutes remaining. With a game to play tomorrow night against San Antonio, that was the moment when Coach Darvin Ham decided to substitute in his bench – there would be no magical comeback, like the Lakers sparked in Portland on Sunday from a 25-point halftime hole.
That wasn’t the end to the sparks, however. Westbrook and Schröder appeared to shout at one another after Ham subbed them off. End-of-game hiccups have been a common ailment for the Lakers this season, and frustration could be seen in James’ face as he slumped in his chair.
But for the Clippers, the offensive outburst was gravy: They wound up shooting 60.7% from the field and making half of their 38 3-point attempts. They managed to hit more field goals (51) than the Lakers (42) despite their opponents taking 11 more attempts. It was the second-most points the Clippers have scored this season.
A lot of that was built in the first half, when the Clippers built a 77-54 lead thanks to shooting 15 for 23 from behind the arc.
Norm Powell capped a wild first half with a 28-foot pull-up jumper with 2.5 seconds left before the buzzer. The Clippers’ first-half total of 15 made 3-pointers was as many as they’ve attempted in the first half of any game this season – they’ve only made more than that in seven entire games.
More to come on this story.