Short-Handed Clippers Fall to Lakers in Final Seconds, 103-101
The fourth and final regular-season meeting between the LA Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers didn't show us anything we didn't already know. Rather, it just reinforced the fact that a seven-game playoff series between the two would be basketball at its very best.
Following a four-month-long break in the season, the Clippers and Lakers made everything feel normal again with a hard-fought, down-to-the-wire contest between Western Conference heavyweights. The Clippers ultimately came up short, losing 103-101 in the final seconds of the game, but the game could've gone either way.
It was all Lakers early, with Anthony Davis pouring in 14 first-quarter points and building the lead as high as 13. But the Clippers made a strong effort in the second and third quarters to get back into the game, and led by as many as 11 in the second half.
Things remained close throughout the fourth quarter, and with less than a minute to play, Paul George sank a three-pointer to tie the game at 101. But LeBron James came up clutch in the final two possessions, collecting an offensive rebound and scoring to put his team ahead and playing strong defense on Kawhi Leonard and George to force a difficult final shot.
George heaved up a three as the clock expired, but the shot missed, and the Lakers came out on top.
Leonard and George were terrific for LA, combining for 58 points, eight rebounds, seven assists, five steals and two blocks. Each player was efficient from the field as well, going 18-of-33 overall and 9-of-15 from three-point range.
"We're still kind of figuring it out," Leonard said after the game. "It was a good game. We still had fun out there. Was great to be back on the floor."
That said, not every Clippers player impressed. Marcus Morris, Landry Shamet and Reggie Jackson combined to shoot just 4-of-22 from the floor, and Ivica Zubac looked like he still needed time to get reacquainted with his time after arriving late to the bubble.
Perhaps the biggest thing Clippers fans can take from this game, though, is what the team managed to accomplish without Montrezl Harrell and Lou Williams.
The star reserves were both inactive for tonight's contest, and that's a significant loss to deal with. On the year, Harrell and Williams are averaging roughly 37 points and are the biggest contributors to a bench that scores a league-best 51.5 per game.
Losing to this Lakers team without them (and a limited contribution from Patrick Beverley) is nothing to be ashamed of. Yes, this one officially counts in the loss column and brings the Clippers one game closer to the postseason, but the team we saw tonight isn't nearly as good as the one we'll see making a push for the NBA title.
The Clippers will have Friday to rest before taking on the New Orleans Pelicans this Saturday at 6:00 p.m. ET.