The Los Angeles Lakers might have been missing three starters against the Indiana Pacers, but head coach Luke Walton thought keys to the team’s 99-86 win was the way they shared the redistributed load as they tallied 26 assists, and locked in on the defensive end of the court.
Walton felt Jordan Clarkson was particularly helpful in the Lakers moving the basketball. “J.C. being not just a scorer but a playmaker helped that stat a lot,” he said.
Clarkson did it all in the absence of Lonzo Ball, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Brandon Ingram. The fourth-year guard erupted for a season-high 33 points while also dishing seven assists and snaring seven rebounds, becoming just the second player in NBA history to do so while shooting above 70 percent from the field off of the bench.
“My teammates were getting me open and I was making shots,” Clarkson said. “Just knowing that we are kind of banged up, we didn’t have all our main guys, so I had to step up.”
Clarkson credited his success to playing a bit slower and more under control while also re-devoting himself to spending time in the gym after what he called a “struggle month.”
Before breaking out against the Pacers, Clarkson was scoring just 10.4 points per game on 37.6 percent shooting while only hitting 27 percent of his 3-pointers in January.
Walton felt Clarkson not focusing on that is what led to his explosion. “To me, guys normally have nights like that when they stop thinking about offense,” Walton explained.
“I think for whatever reason guys being down and him knowing what our messaging was all day about the type of effort we were going to need, you kind of get lost in doing other things. When you’re as gifted as he is offensively, that’s when you have nights like that.”
Rookie forward Kyle Kuzma took the praise even further.
“I kind of expect him to hit every shot he takes,” Kuzma said. “He got it cooking and we definitely needed it.”
The Lakers might continue to need more from Clarkson if their injury woes continue. It’s an ironic plight considering the team was rumored to be interested in trading him all summer, whispers and reports that have continued into the regular season.
Clarkson said he isn’t focused on any of that, however. He’s taking things one day at a time.
“If I’m here, I’m going to help them win games. If I’m not, it is what it is,” Clarkson said, while noting that he has bigger concerns.
“I don’t have Instagram on my phone. Instagram, holla at me, yo. I can’t get into my account. I’m locked out.”
WANT TO PARTICIPATE IN THE DISCUSSION? CHECK OUT THE NEW LAKERS NATION FORUM CLUB