With a win against the Clippers on Wednesday night, the Lakers would have ended the evening at fifth place in the Western Conference, and most importa
With a win against the Clippers on Wednesday night, the Lakers would have ended the evening at fifth place in the Western Conference, and most importantly, in an automatic playoff spot.
Instead, they’ve remained in seventh, and are now a game (and a tiebreaker) adrift of avoiding the play-in tournament with just two games to play.
In front of a largely pro-Lakers crowd at Crypto.com Arena, the Clippers held off their LA rivals 125-118 without an injured Paul George after the teams entered the game with identical 41-38 records.
Kawhi Leonard finished the night with 25 points, Norman Powell kept the Lakers at an arm’s length with 10 third-quarter points (he led the team with 27 off the bench) and Russell Westbrook scored 14 against the team who traded him just two months ago.
Ivica Zubac also added 17 points and 13 rebounds, while Bones Hyland had 14 and Terrance Mann scored 10 as the Clippers got 55 points from their bench.
Russell Westbrook had 14 points and four assists against his former team on Wednesday
And Kawhi Leonard quieted the crowd with 25 points of his own on the night for the Clippers
Westbrook started the game but only played 21 minutes as the Clippers got 55 bench points
For the Lakers, LeBron James had 33 points, eight rebounds and seven assists and Anthony Davis was limited to 17 in his first back-to-back second leg since November (the Lakers beat the Jazz in overtime on Tuesday).
After going into halftime trailing 71-52, the Lakers continued to struggle in the third quarter as the Clippers’ lead ballooned to 24.
And while James’ team used a 19-3 run to cut the lead to eight and get back in the game, the Clippers never led by less than seven in the second half and went back up by 20 in the final period.
James has been struggling with a foot issue lately and revealed after the game that he didn’t know he’d be good to play until 6pm on Wednesday night.
‘We’ve been lacking a little bit in the consistency of our lineups, I was out for four weeks,’ James said after the game. ‘These last two games, we are going to see if we can figure something out.
‘We are still playing good ball. It is what it is, wherever we end up is where we end up.’
The Clippers came in fresh, having had three days off. The Lakers, by comparison, eked out an overtime win at Utah on Tuesday night that required James and Davis to play even more minutes on the front end of a back-to-back.
‘This is one of those scheduling conflicts in the season. Definitely got the best of us tonight,’ James said.
The Lakers road to the playoffs got a lot tougher after losing to the Clippers on Wednesday
LeBron James 33-point, eight-rebound, seven-assist night was not enough for the Lakers
James has struggled with injury lately and only knew at 6pm that he’d play in the game
The Clippers control their own destiny for the fifth seed as they own the divisional record tiebreaker over the Warriors, who now have an equal record to them at 42-38.
Now, the Lakers will try to keep pace in the play-in race and hope the Clippers or Warriors (both tied for fifth place) slip up.
James’ team will wrap up their season against the Suns and Jazz on Friday and Sunday respectively, with Phoenix just about locked into the No. 4 seed and Utah unlikely to make the play-in.
The Clippers, meanwhile, will face the Blazers Saturday before concluding their season vs. Phoenix on Sunday.
Even if the Lakers can’t finish higher than seventh, they’ll want to stay in that spot to get a home win-and-in play-in game.
Finishing below eighth would mean they’d need to win two road games in the play-in tournament just to make the playoffs.
They currently have a one game lead over the ninth-place Timberwolves, who also have two games left.