Unfortunately, we don’t get to celebrate with the Orlando bubble’s first game recap: Lebron and the Los Angeles Lakers beat the LA Clippers in the clutch tonight, 103-101. The Clippers had too many fouls, too many turnovers, and too few fit players. A sweet-shooting second half nearly brought them back anyway. LeBron James just wouldn’t have it.

Game Recap

It was fun, because basketball is back. Then it was not fun, because the referees had to come back too. Then the teams adjusted and found their legs and suddenly we had something that resembled basketball as we remembered it, and by the end we’d been served one hell of an appetizer, even if the last serving went the other guy’s way.

The Clippers don’t yet have everybody back, and not everybody who is back looks like their old self, but there were enough tastes of 2020-vintage Clippers basketball to fight a highly motivated Lakers squad into the final seconds of a 103-101 loss.

It was LeBron James, because it’s so often LeBron James against so many opponents, who slayed them in the end. LeBron shook off the night’s struggles (16/11/7 but with five turnovers and six-for-19 shooting) to follow up his own miss for the go-ahead basket with 12.8 seconds remaining (and four Clippers watching). Then LeBron turned around and shaded Kawhi Leonard until he surrendered the ball to Paul George, who couldn’t match his three-point heroics from less than a half-minute earlier. George looked for a foul, because 57 fouls had already come, so what a difference the 58th might have made.

Oh, you want to hear about the 57 fouls? No, you really don’t. But I’ll tell you that they came early and often and kept a lot of good players off the floor. Kawhi left the first quarter early with two fouls. So did Ivica Zubac. So did Patrick Beverley, in his first bubble action.

George, Zubac, Beverley, and Marcus Morris Sr. all drew their third fouls in the second quarter, many of them quickly. They each drew a fourth foul in the third quarter. Zubac got his within two minutes of the post-half tip. Paul George got his after tarring the Lakers with threes in what was shaping up to be his star quarter. In the fourth quarter, the referees called a lane violation, just for the practice I assume.

To be magnanimous toward the opponent, the whistles weren’t only blown in the good guys’ direction. 27 fouls went the Lakers’ way, with Dwight Howard earning five in only 13 minutes of action.

With fouls overflowing, the contest found little rhythm in the first half. The Clippers and Lakers combined for 34 free-throw attempts and just seven-for-30 deep shooting, and 24 minutes of gametime took nearly 90 minutes of my lifetime. Few shined beyond Kawhi (19 of his 28 points) and Anthony Davis (20 points and 12-13 free throws on his way to a game-high 34). Reggie Jackson added 10 first-half points as a starter before conspicuously struggling at both ends in the second half.

As alluded to, Paul George began the second half with a deft touch, and after Kawhi had erased most of the Lakers’ early lead with a domineering second quarter, the third looked like it was George’s to name until his critical fourth foul. But heavy damage had already been inflicted, and with the Lakers’ offense cratering, they fell behind on a Clippers 14-1 run before resurrecting themselves with a 9-1 counter run. Anthony Davis started hitting threes, as did the Clippers (7-11 in the quarter), and like that the game was surging.

The fourth quarter began with the tide flowing purple and gold. The Lakers ravaged a handcuffed Clipper second-unit for a 15-3 run. With key contributors Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell only recently returned to isolation in the bubble, key returnees Beverley and Landry Shamet short of total game fitness, and key starters in foul trouble, Amir Coffey joined Reggie Jackson in a toothless lineup that provided little at either end.

Doc Rivers eventually returned his stars to the floor, and with a quietly effective JaMychal Green hitting key threes, the Clippers clawed their way back to level and then some, trading for the lead multiple times before the key sequences detailed above. It wasn’t enough to win, as LeBron and the Lakers ultimately beat the Clippers, but it was finally exciting, and if these two teams complete their heavily-predicted journeys to the conference finals, we may well be treated to seven more.

Lakers vs Clippers Notes

  • Alex Caruso completed the Lakers’ five-man closing lineup, and his defense and activity were impactful. His athletic save of a ball heading out of bounds in the final minute was one of many plays that nudged this game toward the Lakers’ side of the ledger.
  • Those that argue in favor of Marcus Morris Sr. as the missing piece will not be submitting this game for the jury’s consideration. Morris finished with 19 scoreless minutes. Dan Woike and other insightful Twitterers noted that Morris has yet to convert a basket against the Lakers in a Clipper uniform.
  • In arguing for the sheer ineffectiveness of several of tonight’s Clipper bench lineups, which consisted largely of Doc’s 11th-, 12th-, and 13th-most preferred players, I will submit for your consideration Exhibit A, Dion Waiters, who finished a game-high plus-17 in 21 minutes I’ll otherwise describe as solid and workmanlike, and Exhibit B, Kyle Kuzma, who feasted for 16 points and a plus-12 rating. I will also add to the record Landry Shamet’s minus-19 rating and zero-for-five three-point shooting in 21 relief minutes. Shamet, like others, was still clearly without his best legs after joining the Orlando bubble late.
  • On a positive note, the Clippers’ small lineups with Patrick Patterson and JaMychal Green were aces. The pair were stout enough to resist their larger Laker counterparts, while their spacing proved to be critical in widening the lane for Kawhi’s interior rumbles. Patterson even flashed some nifty passes. You will see them together again.

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Thomas Wood

Thomas Wood

Writing about the Clippers since 2014 and also since 2019.

37 Comments

  • davidanagy davidanagy says:

    The Lakers played better and deserved the win. Nevertheless, I’m surprised the game was as close as it was with so many of our key players missing or with conditioning issues. I continue to believe that we match up well against the Lakers and should have the advantage come playoffs.

  • Avatar PIKE4-3 says:

    I am slightly envious of the cross-town rival’s surprising team-chemistry this season, given all their new/moving pieces, including new coaches, in combo with the ‘strong‘ personality types of Bron, Kuz, and Dwight.

    That said, I still think the Clippers roster is deeper and more talented. I just wish that Doc would not routinely put aside his head in the final minutes of games, continuing to promote small ball lineups at the expense of lockdown defensive closing lineups that are available with our roster. We go from excessively & well-equipped to becoming a liability in the clutch mins too often due to this lack of recognition by coach

  • Avatar osamu6238 says:

    Not a surprising result, but still disappointing given so many opportunities to win the game.

    I didn’t expect JMyke to get the nod with the closing group, but Zu definitely looks rusty and Noah does look slow when they go with AD at center. I guess you have to trust Mook to hit shots eventually, but PatPat has looked solid whenever given minutes, and I would’ve liked to see him given a shot.

    I was hoping this break would be good for Shamet, who has struggled so far this season. Let’s hope he gets his shot back soon. Mook too. I would still take those two over probably anyone 3-10 on the Lakers roster, but man, they have to at least hit something.

    Bottom line, if Paul George can keep up this level of play, it’s a problem for the rest of the NBA.

    • Robert Flom Robert Flom says:

      I absolutely would not take Shamet and Marcus Morris over Danny Green, probably not over KCP or 2020 Dwight either, to be honest.

      But yeah, those two and Zu should hopefully round into shape over the coming weeks.

      • Avatar osamu6238 says:

        Wasn’t really the point to really compare them, just meant they should be much better basketball players than they showed in this game. Clips are really lucky they can overcome bad games from them because they’re so deep.

        If you really want to compare them, Danny Green is probably the #3 guy on the Lakers, and him vs. Shamet, who at best is #6 on the Clips, is at least a conversation. Both are having down years, Green I’ll admit probably gets the nod as a better defender, but if you take into account age and salary, it’s not even close who you’d rather have.

  • Darius Miles Forever Darius Miles Forever says:

    Condition-wise, Doc could’ve simply put Mann instead of rusty Shamet but we need to get Shamet or Bev ready for the Playoffs. Keep shooting.
    I love how Patterson/JaMychal lineup spaced the floor and I’m very encouraged by how Clippers played.

  • Avatar TheGreatestShowman says:

    On a separate note, I’m worried about Trez. His usual cryptic IG presence is now downright morose. He posted today and image of a guy on a cliff and then what’s presumably a dying woman with her soul leaving her body. Pray that he’s ok and gets the support he needs.

  • Avatar TheGreatestShowman says:

    PG’s 4th foul to me was the critical point. One, it was dumb. He stopped the breakaway but we had all the momentum and he then sat for what seemed like an eternity. He could have easily gone for 40 the way he was playing and a win for us.

  • boltsfan21 boltsfan21 says:

    I just want to take a moment to appreciate the new site and the fact that the comments here are utterly reasonable. If this game had taken place during the last couple years at CN, the comments would be filled with sky-is-falling overreactions. I’m so glad to be back among “smart dudes who know the game of basketball.”

    Indeed, rather than being disappointed, this game made me as optimistic as ever. We were completely missing the league’s best bench duo, two key rotation players are essentially at square one conditioning- and timing-wise after being completely inactive with COVID, and another starter was playing on a minutes restriction — and yet it still came down to a two-point game against one of the league’s 3 best teams. At full strength, I have no doubt that we’re the better team. Here’s hoping we make it back to full strength by the time we see them in the playoffs.

    • lying dog-faced pony soldier lying dog-faced pony soldier says:

      Thanks, second your sentiment “as optimistic as ever.” This game could have gone either way. These two teams are evenly matched, talent + gigantism vs. talent + depth. It’s just nice having NBA basketball back. (Hope it lasts…)

    • Lucas Hann Lucas Hann says:

      By my count 3 rotation players, not 2–Landry, Zu, and Pat were all limited last night. Pat was effective, but does anyone doubt he’d have played 36 instead of 16 if he was fully conditioned?

      • boltsfan21 boltsfan21 says:

        Agreed, but I separated them because their situations are a little different (notice I said right after that another starter was on a minutes restriction). The distinction I was making is that Sham and Zu had COVID so they weren’t even able to work out; Bev was on a minutes restriction but isn’t totally at square one with his conditioning like the other two are.

    • Robert Flom Robert Flom says:

      Yeah the new site is great, and we are so happy to have the comments section bubbling again now that Clippers basketball has returned.

      I remain as optimistic as I possibly can be regarding a Lakers-Clippers series. I think the Clips are objectively better, but the skepticism and doubt ts just ingrained too deep.

  • Avatar mlslaw1 says:

    Why didn’t anybody box out LBJ on the last play? Is that a learning experience or are pros just too entitled to do the “little things?”

    • Lucas Hann Lucas Hann says:

      it was just positioning. anyone who body checks him in that spot to try and box him out is getting a foul. It wasn’t like someone shot a spot-up three and nobody marked LeBron–he was moving, missed a shot, and he essentially needed a perfect bounce right back into his hands… and got it. Just the bounce of the ball.

  • Avatar ChrisD says:

    OT but i loved reggie miller as a player and can’t stand him as an announcer, kevin harlon is great but reggie’s announcing was worse than our reggie’s play, and that was not good.

  • lying dog-faced pony soldier lying dog-faced pony soldier says:

    The site looks and works great. Looking forward to the Pelicans game. I even like their ex-Lakers players.

    • Lucas Hann Lucas Hann says:

      Glad to hear everything is running smoothly! Agreed regarding Pelicans: I was a Lonzo fan pre-Lakers and am glad he’s out of there. Josh Hart is the kind of player I love, even when he was a Laker. And Brandon Ingram, who I have never been that high on, has really, really impressed me this year. Add in Zion, JJ Redick, and Jrue Holiday, and they’re a really fun team with a number of quality guys.

      Plus, even though he isn’t in the rotation, it’s all love for Sindarius Thornwell.

  • Avatar John Maclean says:

    Site revamp looks great. Let’s stay positive.

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