Despite a furious rally to get back in the game after being down 10 at halftime, the Lakers once again failed to put away an opponent, losing 105-102 to the Clippers in a game that came down to the wire.
LeBron James once again led the way with 21 points, and Russell Westbrook chipped in 18 in a solid performance by his current standards. The Lakers also got key help when they needed it most from Carmelo Anthony and (especially) Talen Horton-Tucker, but their defense could not keep the Clippers down, and the team across the hallway took a 3-0 season series lead on a go-ahead fadeaway from Marcus Morris in the final minute.
The Lakers’ next possession following Morris’ shot resulted in a nearly 10-minute replay review off of a challenge by Clippers coach Tyronn Lue, which ruled that James’ right foot was out of bounds as he tried to save the ball after Westbrook’s own go-ahead attempt was blocked. That reversed the original ruling on the floor that would have given the Lakers a second chance, despite a seemingly unclear replay.
But after a successful challenge of their own that reversed a foul call on Talen Horton-Tucker on the next possession as the Clippers tried to advance the ball, L.A. trapped Jackson in the backcourt, forcing an eight-second violation that gave the Lakers another chance with 18 seconds remaining. However, Anthony missed a deep three-pointer that would have given the Lakers the lead, and then James missed a three at the buzzer that would have sent the game to overtime. The team missed their final six shots in regulation.
It’s another brutal, close defeat in a season full of them, with the added insult to injury of the Lakers now losing three times to the Clippers without Kawhi Leonard, and twice without both Leonard and Paul George. It’s not exactly a great sign that this diminished version of the Clippers appears better than a Lakers team that has played James and Westbrook in each of the three matchups between the two squads — even though the Clippers’ combined margin of victory in those games is just eight points total.
The loss also makes it even more unlikely that the Lakers can pass the Clippers for the eighth seed and get a more desirable slot in the play-in game. The Lakers, who dropped to 27-32 on the year with this defeat, are now 2.5 games back of the Clippers with only one matchup between the teams remaining.
The Lakers have two more games in their current homestand. First up is Sunday against the New Orleans Pelicans with tip-off scheduled for 7 p.m. PT.