The Los Angeles Lakers attempted to rebound from a lackluster performance in their Tuesday night showdown at Staples Center against the Washington Wizards. The 21-52 Lakers are using these final 10 games to build some momentum going into the offseason, while the 45-28 Wizards fight for playoff position atop the Eastern conference.
Tuesday Night’s contest at Staples Center was a celebration of sorts for Luke Walton, as the youngest head coach in the NBA celebrated his 37th birthday. Although his rookie season as a head coach hasn’t necessarily transpired as he thought, he has build a precedent to grow up during the offseason.
Walton has experimented with different lineups of late, but an injury has forced a change over the last two games. Brandon Ingram was once again ruled out with knee tendinitis, a precautionary take on the rookie leader in minutes played.
The head coach of the Lakers elected to start the game with D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Corey Brewer, Julius Randle and Ivica Zubac. Wizards head coach Scott Brooks sent out his usual starters in All-Star John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter Jr., Markieff Morris and Marcin Gortat.
The Wizards starting lineup is responsible for a majority of their scoring, as the Wizards feature the second worst scoring bench in the NBA. Washington feasts in the transition game, with Wall doing a phenomenal job of finding his teammates on the fast break.
Wall was able to strip Brewer on an early drive to the basket, which converted into two free throws via a coast to coast take into the lane. The former No. 1 overall pick and his speed were a difficult matchup for Russell, with the Lakers former top pick sagging off considerably and going under the picks.
The Lakers started the contest with many quick rotations on offense, as the young core tried to get into an up and down contest. In fact, the guards did a nice job of dropping it off to the big man off of pick and roll situations.
Zubac turned into the beneficiary on those drop offs, as he scored the first three Lakers buckets courtesy of floater attempts in the lane. A Brewer jump shot would mark the first bucket from another teammate, but the Lakers fell down 15-8 early.
Porter Jr. then capitalized on the sloppy transition defense out of the timeout, knocking down a three-pointer and mid-range jumper on consecutive jumpers to give the Wizards a 20-8 lead. The game quickly turned into a track meet, an environment that Wall thrives in.
He took an errant pass and found Beal for an alley-oop, while Russell found David Nwaba for a dunk on the left baseline. With less than three minutes remaining in the first, the Wizards held a 26-17 lead. Wizards NBA Trade deadline acquisition Brandon Jennings would see time at the end of the first, but fell victim to a Russell crossover on a mid-range jumper.
on the next possession, Larry Nance Jr. corralled an offensive rebound completely due to hustle and found Russell for a three-pointer, cutting the lead to 27-22. Russell seemed to find his rhythm rather quickly, as he knocked down a three-pointer on the wing to cut the lead two.
Nance Jr. blocked Jason Smith’s attempt with five seconds left in the quarter, as Russell fed Nwaba for a fast break lay up at the buzzer. The Lakers put together a strong defensive end to the quarter, with the Wizards missing eight consecutive shots to end the quarter. At the end of the first period the game was tied 27-27.
Russell put together a strong first quarter 11 points, which continued into the second quarter. He was able to get past Kelly Oubre Jr. on a nifty in and out dribble, taking it to the rim for a crafty finish. Jennings and Russell continued to go at it, in a battle of southpaws.
Both teams then hit a stretch of sloppy play, with about five turnovers in a minute span. The Lakers bench unit brought about their normal defensive intensity, which made it difficult for the bench unit of the Wizards to score.
The game reached the sixth tie early in the second quarter, as both teams managed 33 points four minutes into the second period. Tyler Ennis then received an assist on a beautiful drive to the basket, using a pump fake to feed Tarik Black for the easy dunk. The contest was then tied at 40 a piece on a three-pointer from Ellis, as the contest turned into a back and forth one. Porter Jr. would later hit two consecutive mid-range jump shots, making him 6-for-6 during the game.
Ennis then answered back with his second consecutive three-pointer, cutting the Wizards lead to 47-45. Clarkson then hit an alley-oop lay up thanks to an assist from Russell, who was inserted back in after his hot start. It seemed as though Russell didn’t lose a step, hitting a three-pointer while trailing on a fast break, giving the Lakers a 50-49 lead with less than three minutes remaining in the half.
Both teams exerted all their remaining energy over the final two minutes, as the track meet went up and down in the Lakers’ favor. Clarkson was able to convert a tip in off of a Zubac miss at the rim, while Zubac also nailed three of four free throws after being fouled on way to the basket.
After scoring a strong 27 points in the first quarter, the Lakers responding with 31 points in the second and took a 58-55 lead into halftime. The first half was truly a back and forth game, as there was over 10 ties and lead changes. Russell led the Lakers with 20 points, four rebounds and four assists, while Wall secured 14 points, 10 assists and three rebounds.
The Lakers used an impressive 32 points in the paint to obtain their lead, while their seven blocks and six steals set the tone on the defensive end. Coming into the game, the third quarter had always been troublesome in terms of scoring, with the Wizards climbing back in early.
Porter Jr. would go on to make another mid-range shot, while Wall knocked down a mid-range shot and a deep three-pointer with the Lakers sagging off. However, a Clarkson three-pointer and four points from Brewer gave the Lakers a 68-62 lead four minutes into the second half.
Russell’s soft touch on his jump shot surely was in his favor on Tuesday, as he hit his third shot thanks in part to many bounces off the rim. On the next possession, he fed Clarkson for a corner jump shot and his fifth assist, as the Lakers held a 74-65 lead.
Clarkson was also putting together a strong game alongside Russell, as his eight-foot shot on the assist from Randle gave him 17 on the night. A Randle lay up the following possession gave the Lakers a 80-68 lead, an unexpected double-digit advantage.
After dropping a few assists from Russell early on, Black was able to hold onto a quick pass towards the rim, which he converted into a lefty lay up. On the next play, Russell once again fed Black, he used a spin move and finished with his right hand. At this point, the Lakers made 11 consecutive field goals, obtaining a 16-point lead (86-70).
The Lakers used this hot streak to build a sizable lead, with a Clarkson jump shot giving them a 90-78 lead. Oubre Jr. knocked down a three on the wing thanks to a wall assist, but Black responded with a bucket in the paint for the Lakers 14th consecutive make.
The final shot of the frame would come via Clarkson, who winded down the clock and nailed a pull-up three-pointer for their 15th consecutive shot to end the quarter. At the end of three quarters, the Lakers held a 95-82 lead.
The third best team in the East would not go down without a fight, as they understood how important this game was towards their playoff positioning. Smith drove down the middle for a three-point play to start the quarter, cutting the Lakers lead down to 10.
After that, the momentum starting shifting into the Wizards’ favor. Both Wall and Oubre Jr. would convert buckets in the paint, giving the Wizards a 9-0 run. Walton quickly called a timeout, as he witnessed the lead dwindle down to 95-89 less than two minutes into the quarter.
A Nance Jr. jump shot put an end to their run, but the Wizards responded with a Bojan Bogdanovic three-point play. Nance Jr. was in great position for the charge call, but the block and goaltending was called as Black thought the charge would be called. Black would make up for it on the next play, with a dunk down the lane on the assist from Russell.
With an eight-point lead, the Lakers needed a strong defensive stretch to maintain their lead, especially with the Wizards starters on the bench. It was at that point that Brooks elected to bring Wall and Beal back into the game.
Wall was able to convert a driving lay up, cutting the lead to two. On the next play, Wall came away with a steal, but Black blocked Oubre Jr.’s lay up at the rim. However, Wall would once again strip the Lakers on the next play and finished a wide open slam dunk to tie the game 101-101.
With five minutes remaining in the game, these minutes against a strong opponent would be vital for the young core of the Lakers. On the next possession, Russell found himself open in the corner, but was bailed out during his miss on a tip-in by Nance Jr.
The Lakers lost their lead when Wall was fouled on a drive to basket, as his two free throws gave the Wizards a 105-104 lead. An aggressive closeout by Randle worked against the Lakers, as Beal knocked down a three-point play from the top of the key. Beal’s free throw gave the Wizards a 108-104 lead, with less than three minutes remaining.
The Lakers would crawl back in to make it 110-108, but some key turnovers down the stretch would haunt them. A bad pass by Russell would be stolen and while Clarkson was able to steal it back, Randle lost the ball on the way up for another turnover.
Wall then threw a bullet pass to Oubre Jr. in the corner for a three, giving the Wizards a 113-108 lead. Oubre Jr. then knocked down a pair of free throws, extending their lead to seven points with little time left.
The dagger from this game would come from none other than Wall, as he hit a step-back jumper over Russell to give his team a 117-108 lead with less than a minute remaining. The Wizards would go on to escape with a – win over the Lakers, led by Wall and his 34 points, 14 assists, three rebounds and four steals.
Russell led the way for the Lakers with 28 points, six rebounds and nine assists, while Clarkson also got 22 points and four rebounds. The Wizards outscored the Lakers 37-13 in the final frame, solidifying the much-deserved comeback effort.