Saturday, May 18, 2024

Paul George, Clippers hold off Lakers

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LOS ANGELES — A 2-8 record and a sore foot on perhaps the greatest NBA player didn’t faze Clippers coach Tyronn Lue heading into Wednesday’s game against the Lakers. He knew better than to count out any team that has LeBron James on it.

And he was right. The Clippers needed every rebound, every basket and every bit of energy from the home crowd Wednesday to overcome two sizeable runs by the Lakers for a 114-101 victory.

The Clippers have now won nine consecutive games and 11 of the past 13 against the Lakers in what used to be a Lakers-dominated series. But not anymore.

Behind Paul George’s 28 points and a balanced supporting cast, the Clippers (7-5) won their second consecutive game and fourth of their past five. Six other players scored in double figures.

Before the game, Lue said that when he coached James in Cleveland, he had a saying: “If we have LeBron, we always got a chance to win.”

That hasn’t been the case this season for the Lakers with or without James. They are second-to-last – behind Houston in the league with just two victories.

James came into the game shooting 45% from the field and 21% from the 3, the lowest his since rookie season. He upped his percentages with a solid first half, going 6 of 9 from the field and 2 of 3 from beyond the arc three at the half. He finished with 30 points on 12 of 22 shooting and four 3-pointers.

James was on the floor after sitting out the Lakers’ game two night ago against the Utah Jazz. He said earlier in the day that rest was the only way for his foot to heal but it was something “I don’t have. I’ll be in the lineup tonight.”

But he finished the game in the locker room, leaving the court late in the fourth quarter holding his groin.

After a lopsided second quarter in which the Clippers were outscored, 31-16, they managed to disrupt any rhythm the Lakers built, pulling away to an 87-75 lead.

The Lakers never really made much noise after that, losing to their crosstown rivals again.

The Lakers were in the game early until they weren’t. And the turnaround happened quickly as turnovers and poor shot selection put them into a 17-point hole. George had a lot to do with the Clippers’ strong start, hitting a 3-pointer to start the game and had 15 points after one quarter. He finished the first half with 19 points, but also three fouls.

But midway through the second quarter, the Lakers began keying on the Clippers’ inside game, shutting out center Ivica Zubac (two points, four rebounds in the first half) and forcing the Clippers to go outside. The Lakers’ physicality rattled the Clippers, whose shots weren’t falling, and suddenly the game was tied at 48 after a 12-2 Lakers run.

Forward Troy Brown’s missed a 3 in the waning moments that enabled the Clippers to carry a slim 54-52 lead into halftime.

The last time these teams met, Kawhi Leonard came off the bench and scored 14 points in the Clippers’103-97 opening night victory. They didn’t have Leonard this time, as he continues to rehabilitate his surgically repaired right knee.

Lue was hoping Norman Powell would provide that spark against the Lakers, but it was a collective effort from several players who kept the Clippers in the game. Powell came through with 18 points off the bench, while Luke Kennard, who started in place of Terance Mann, scored 13 points and Reggie Jackson scored 14. Two others scored in double digits.

“He’s been playing well as of late, just making the right plays, making the right reads,” Lue said of Powell. “And last game he was huge for us. I think 6 or 7 from the field with 17 points off the bench.”

Lakers guard Lonnie Walker IV was out because of non-COVID illness, which was good news for the Clippers. Walker scored 26 off the bench in the teams’ first meeting of the season.

“I think since I’ve been here, every time we played his team, someone steps up and plays well so it’ll be somebody else tonight,” Lue said.

Anthony Davis added 21 points and nine rebounds for the Lakers, while Russell Westbrook and Brown each had14 points.

“It’s learning, learning on the fly and trying to be as best we can be on the court,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham said. “But just have to be better.”

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