The Los Angeles Lakers were finally made whole again with the return of Larry Nance Jr. on Monday night, but that wasn’t enough to prevent them from being dealt a disappointing loss by the Los Angeles Clippers.
Nance had been sidelined since the beginning of the month due to a broken hand, but recovered ahead of schedule and re-joined the starting lineup just in time to match up with Blake Griffin. “I thought Larry was probably our best player out there tonight,” Lakers head coach Luke Walton said.
“Blake is a handful in the post and they run most of their offense through him. [Nance] was active, he was grabbing rebounds, he was fighting. I thought he did a very nice job for us.”
Nance gave a valiant effort defending Griffin and found some success against him in the second half. Nance’s box score — nine points, eight rebounds, and four steals in 30 minutes of playing time — don’t do justice to his true impact on the floor.
Though even with that, Griffin finished his night with 26 points, 11 rebounds, and six assists, as well as a frightening knee injury that the Clippers are awaiting test results on. Former Lakers guard Lou Williams also had a tremendous showing, knifing around Nance and other defenders in the paint to score a season-high 42 points.
Moving Nance back into the starting lineup was somewhat controversial decision made by Walton, since it meant shifting rookie sensation Kyle Kuzma to the bench. Nance is the stronger defender and rebounder, but Kuzma’s offensive versatility could be missed in the starting unit.
The Lakers will now look to bounce back from a fifth consecutive loss to the Clippers but it won’t be easy, with a meeting with the Golden State Warriors looming on Wednesday.
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