The Los Angeles Lakers geared up for their preseason finale Friday night, preparing for a road tilt at Staples Center against the Los Angeles Clippers. Luke Walton and the coaching staff have some important decisions to make, as they get one final chance to evaluate the team in lieu of the roster cuts. At the same time, this also provides an opportunity to work through their kinks and develop their chemistry ahead of the Oct. 19 season opener.
Injuries are the central theme to Friday’s showdown, as both teams are dealing with health and rest concerns. Lonzo Ball continues to rest his ankle and will not suit up, as well as backup center Andrew Bogut. On the other hand, the Clippers will feature a limited roster, with Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, Danilo Gallinari, Austin Rivers, and Milos Teodosic all out.
Coming off of a back-to-back, Clippers head coach Doc Rivers is using the Oct. 13 clash as a chance to rest his starters. His starting lineup featured Jawun Evans, Tyrone Wallace, Wesley Johnson, C.J. Williams, and Montrezl Harrell.
The Lakers countered with Tyler Ennis, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Brandon Ingram, Larry Nance Jr. and Brook Lopez. Walton has shuffled his lineups all throughout the preseason, giving players different opportunities with varying lineups, as Nance Jr. once again got the start over Julius Randle.
Although a Clippers home game, the Lakers contingent once again come out in full force, supporting their team from the getgo. Brook Lopez got off to a strong start, knocking down a post-up move, followed by a three-pointer to show off his versatility.
Halfway into the first quarter, the Lakers opened up 15-10 lead, by using solid ball rotations and executing off the pick-and-roll. Nance Jr. resided as the primary screen setter, with Lopez spacing the floor.
Ingram started off strong offensively, with eight points (3-for-5 FGs), four assists, and two rebounds just eight minutes into the game.
The 27-19 lead was a promising start for the Lakers, as they were limiting scoring opportunities for the reserves of the Clippers. The second unit finished the quarter quite strong, led by Kyle Kuzma and Julius Randle. The lefty contributed eight points in just four minutes, as the Lakers closed out the first quarter with a 38-26 lead.
The Lakers opened up the second quarter with sloppy basketball, with turnovers on two consecutive possessions. The Clippers chipped the lead down seven, with Walton’s squad getting cold. A backdoor lob from Randle to Clarkson opened up the scoring for the second, while the Clippers continued chipping away at the lead.
Kuzma remained aggressive on the offensive end, as the team’s leading scorer in the preseason. Although a few unfortunate turnovers on drives to the basket, he got his first bucket on a driving reverse layup over Johnson.
A series of Johnson jump shots and three-point pays for the Clippers brought the lead down to 52-50, with four minutes left in the half. Both teams continued to play at an up-tempo pace, scoring into the fifties and continually hoisting shots up.
Lopez continued the offensive charge for the Lakers, knocking down his second three-pointer of the game, shooting 6-for-9 from the field. His ability to space the floor is truly an advantage, as Ingram found him while the Clippers attempted to rotate on a pick-and-roll.
A nice play out of bounds gave Alex Caruso a jump shot with two seconds left, as the Lakers took a 66-61 lead into halftime. Lopez led the way with 14 points and two rebounds, while Ingram posted 11 points, five assists, and three rebounds. Evans and Wallace each chipped in 14 points to lead the way for the Clippers, while Johnson also had nine points and three rebounds.
Ingram and Johnson each started off the second half three-point plays, but both were unable to convert the free throws. Both teams would go on their own spurts, as the Clippers attempted to take the lead. Their 8-2 run brought the game close, but a nice between the legs assists from Caruso to Lopez once again gave the Lakers a 72-71 lead.
After scoring six in the first half, Caldwell-Pope knocked down his first three-pointer of the game, giving them the 75-73 lead and forcing the Clippers to call a timeout. The starting five for the Lakers seem rather balanced on the floor, with multiple scoring options on the floor while passing the ball properly around.
The second unit closed out the second quarter for the Lakers, with Randle, Kuzma, Caruso, Clarkson, and Corey Brewer taking the court. That energetic lineup would get up and down the court, but suffered on the defensive end due to their small size.
However, Brewer’s experience was a difference maker, as he cleverly got two consecutive steals and a breakaway dunk during defensive breakdowns. Rookie Thomas Bryant got his first minutes of action late in the third, stamping home a one-handed slam on a nice assist from Brewer. At the end of the third quarter, the Lakers held onto their 91-88 lead.
The fourth quarter began with an ample amount of turnovers, from both sides. The sloppy basketball from both bench units made for an interesting situation, as both teams didn’t score the first two minutes of the final frame.
Briante Weber saw his first minutes of action in the fourth quarter, scrambling for a loose ball and scoring a lay-up on a nice backdoor set up. With seven minutes left in the contest, the Lakers held onto a 93-92 lead, attempting to gain separation from their opponents.
Both teams had only for field goals and eight turnovers halfway into the fourth, as Walton elected to go with a different lineup. Weber, Vander Blue, Josh Hart, Kuzma, and Bryant were on the floor, as the players continued to compete in an important contest for the borderline decisions.
Weber used a stellar crossover to score another bucket, giving his team a 97-92 lead with five minutes remaining. However, Weber would shortly be ejected after receiving two technical fouls in a span of minutes. Caruso came in and fed Hart for a nice transition bucket, as the Lakers held onto their three-point lead with three minutes remaining.
Hart was able to put a stamp on the end of the game, as he knocked down a clutch step-back shot to extend the lead to four points. He then cleaned up a Blue miss for a tip-in, giving his team a six-point lead with less than two minutes.
A few stops at the end finalized the win for the Lakers, as they escape with a 111-104 win in one of hte sloppiest games of the preseason. Lopez led all Lakers scorers with 16 points, while Ingram totaled 15 points, five assists, and four rebounds. The output in 21 minutes for Ingram was a pleasant sight to see, as his confidence led to a 6-for-10 shooting night. Randle accumulated 15 points and seven rebounds off the bench, but also ended up with two turnovers a few questionable decisions. Unfortunately for him, he didn’t see any action later in the contest, as he was diagnosed with back spasms.