The Los Angeles Lakers were handed as embarrassing of a beatdown as a tanking team can have, trailing by as much as 43 points in a drubbing at the hands of the Clippers on Sunday night. Rookie guard Jordan Clarkson vowed to study tape and bounce back, and while he did, the Lakers still lost a close game 105-100.
The Lakers hung in with the Clippers for the first few minutes, but after an initial Lakers' 12-11 lead, one blink and Clippers 8-0 run later the Clippers held a 19-11 lead of their own. As it has frequently this season, the Lakers gave up a few open dunks to the likes of DeAndre Jordan, but were really burned by their inability to stick to Clippers sharpshooter J.J. Redick, who canned 6-9 shots and both of his three point attempts for 14 points in the quarter. After Redick went to the bench, the Lakers went on a 7-0 run to only trail 23-21 at the end of the first quarter.
Clarkson looked much better on this night than he did in his first go round against master point guard defender Chris Paul, scoring 10 points in the first half on 4-11 shooting and 1 assist not reflecting how much better of a job he did of making the right pass to his release valve (too often Ryan Kelly, who shot an abysmal 1-12 in the first half) to beat the Clippers' pressure.
The Clippers 46.2% to the Lakers' 30.4% to take a 50-39 lead into halftime. The Lakers, as they perpetually have, struggled to defend Blake Griffin, who scored 12 first half points on 9 shots. The third quarter began with a 6-2 Lakers run, and Clarkson finished through contact again and again as the quarter went on. Tarik Black had a few dunks, and the Lakers outscored the Clippers by 4 in the third and were only trailing by 7, 76-69 heading into the fourth. Clarkson particularly went inferno in the period, scoring 10 more points, doubling his total to that point.
In the fourth, the Lakers' bench rode a 9-2 run to close the gap to 87-85 with 5:55 left to play in the contest, leading to scattered chants of "let's go Lakers" on the Clippers' "home" floor. A few minutes later a Robert Sacre bucket left the Lakers only trailing 89-88, but Redick answered with a three pointer, and then followed it up with two free throws after Clarkson missed a three pointer of his own to make the score 94-88. Then Matt Barnes got a lob dunk to bush the lead to 8 points after Kelly missed another three off of a Jeremy Lin setup.
Later, a Wesley Johnson long 2 pointer brought the Lakers within 4 at 98-94, but then Griffin answered with a long 2 of his own to stretch the Clippers lead to 6 with 30 seconds remaining in the game. Tarik Black answered back with a runner (which is an absurd sentence that somehow truly describes a real, NBA late game possession). With 16.5 seconds left, the Lakers were forced to intentionally foul, and Redick missed 1-2, and when Lin caught the inbounds pass he was poked in the eye by Matt Barnes, sending him to the free throw line. Lin made both, but so did Paul on the other end, and the Lakers would ultimately lose 105-100.
Redick (27 points on 9-14 shooting) and Griffin paced the Clippers with 27 points on 20 shots with 6 rebounds and 6 assists, cooled slightly after his scorching start, while Chris Paul (19 points on 11 shots with 10 assists and 0 turnovers) was nearly flawless as always.
It was encouraging to see Clarkson (20 points on 17 shots with 6 assists and 4 rebounds) make good on his promise to look at tape, as the rookie looked nonplussed by the hard hedges on screen and rolls that gave him so many problems during the Lakers' blowout loss on Sunday night. After a surprisingly close loss, the Lakers will travel to Denver to take on the Nuggets in the dreaded road back to back they almost never seem to win.