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The Lakers and Clippers played their last game at Staples Center (before it becomes Crypto.com) last night. Despite the Clippers getting blown out by the Kings and Pelicans earlier this week, the Lakers lost 115-119 to the Clippers in a game the Lakers never lead. Head coach Frank Vogel opted to trim the rotation down to nine players for this game.

Anthony Davis and LeBron James combined for 50 points, and the rest of team did not have any trouble scoring tonight. The real issue remains on the defensive end. The Lakers gave up 30+ points in three of the four quarters, simply unacceptable for a team vying for championship aspirations.

Vogel was throwing out lineups that included the one with James at the five, giving the team more creativity on offense. However, defensively this lineup was picked apart on every possession with the pick and roll, as backup opposing center Isaiah Hartenstein had his way getting to the rim as the roll guy. With this current roster construction, the Lakers simply do not have the defensive player personnel that works with Vogel as a defensive minded coach.

LeBron James Returns from One Game Absence

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After missing the Sacramento game abruptly due to a false positive of a Covid test, James returned to score 23 points, 11 rebounds, and six assists. Friday morning shootaround was the first time LeBron picked up a basketball in almost a week. He had not stepped on a court since last Sunday’s game against the Pistons. The four-time champion admitted after the game his rhythm had been thrown off, being in and out of the lineup constantly.

Malik Monk Caught Fire in the Second Half

Monk singlehandedly kept the Lakers in the game, as he scored all 20 of his points in the second half. He proved to be the spark-plug and fourth option the Lakers needed to keep the game close. The former Kentucky player’s ability to score has never been a problem, but his small frame on the defensive end presents a challenge for the Lakers, who have a roster filled with defensive deficient players.

Talen Horton-Tucker Needs to Step Up

After looking like the young player who would break out and prove to the Lakers brass they did not make a mistake in letting Alex Caruso walk, THT has struggled so far this season with the team. After scoring a meager 8 points and committing four fouls in 28 minutes, Horton-Tucker has scored double digits only once in the past five games. His defensive game also has not made up for much for the team since he’s played this season. The margin of error for this team is thin, so THT will really need to figure out a way to impact the game positively sooner rather than later.