The Los Angeles Clippers were all over the L.A. Lakers right from the start of their 121-106 victory Friday night, outscoring their cross-hall rivals 35-22 in the first quarter and never really being threatened afterward, leaving head coach Luke Walton unable to even evaluate his new starting lineup.
“I think it’s going to be hard to judge the first half because I just don’t think we were ready for whatever reason to engage in the fight,” Walton said, an assertion forward Brandon Ingram agreed with.
“Absolutely. They hit us in the mouth in the first five minutes of the basketball game,” Ingram said.
The Clippers outscored the Lakers 8-2 in those first five minutes as part of a 19-3 run to blow the game wide open and set the tone for the evening. It’s something forward Larry Nance Jr. said has been a “theme” for the Lakers this season.
“I definitely feel like they hit us first,” Nance said. “Whoever we’re starting with is having a hard time getting going and that’s something for us to fix as well.”
The Lakers have tried numerous starting lineups this season, going with more traditional frontcourts featuring two big men while also experimenting with the smaller starting pairing of Julius Randle and Kyle Kuzma Friday night, but new starting unit didn’t work any better than the old ones.
“Collectively, we didn’t play well from the start so I can’t really argue,” Randle said of Walton’s assessment of the first half. “I don’t know what happened. We’ve just got to be better.”
In Walton’s estimation, the Lakers were better, at least in the second half, which will allow him to better evaluate his new starting unit of Randle, Kuzma, Ingram, Josh Hart and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
“The second half will be much more telling because at least we were playing with the effort that we need to play with as a group,” Walton said, noting that finding groups that can play with that effort will be the only way the Lakers can get back to playing competitive basketball.
“I think we had some nice individual moments from different people tonight but we are not a team that’s going to win by individuals being good, we have to be a team that wins by our team doing it together. We had nice moments of that too, but not nearly enough.”
The Lakers won’t be able to find out if they can have more of those moments with their new starters until they see that group come out swinging.
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