The battle of Los Angeles basketball bragging rights took place inside Staples Center on Monday night, as the Clippers defeated the Lakers, 120-115. Clippers Lou Williams led the charge with a 42-point performance, while Clippers forward Blake Griffin exited the game early in what was diagnosed as a left MCL sprain.
“That was a gutty win for us,” Clippers head coach Doc Rivers described. “They had some momentum going, your best player goes out of the game, and really there were a couple of huge plays.”
The Clippers overcame an eight-point deficit in the fourth quarter to win their fifth consecutive victory against the Lakers. While it was a Clippers home game, the Staples Center was filled with “Let’s go Lakers” chants around the shared home arena.
“I thought we played hard enough to win the game, we kind of just beat ourselves,” Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball commented after the game. Ball’s tumultuous season continued as he shot 1-7 from the field.
Teammate Larry Nance Jr. rejoined the Lakers starting lineup after the third-year forward missed 11 games due to a broken hand.
“I thought Larry was probably our best player out there tonight,” Lakers head coach Luke Walton said. Nance Jr. had nine points and eight rebounds in his return.
“His energy was good,” added Lakers Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. “He did a great job for his first game back.”
While Nance Jr. was sidelined by injury, rookie Kyle Kuzma started and was the Lakers’ leading scorer during that period, averaging 16.8 points per game. Off the bench against the Clippers, Kuzma still contributed 15 points playing just under 20 minutes.
It was Caldwell-Pope who shined the brightest for the Lakers. Caldwell-Pope ended the game with a season-high 29 points, 16 of those points came in the first quarter. Even with Caldwell-Pope’s offensive efforts, it was not enough to outlast the Clippers.
Former Laker Lou Williams got hot early and was consistent through four quarters offensively. Williams was 14 of 14 from the free-throw line and 12 for 21 from the field totaling 42 points.
“He saved us,” Rivers said. “We needed every point Lou gave us,” especially after Griffin went down. In the fourth quarter with less than four minutes left, Griffin went for a loose ball in the paint with teammate Austin Rivers and fell down. Griffin gripped his left knee, played another series and headed straight for the locker room.
“It didn’t look good, obviously,” Doc Rivers said. Griffin added 26 points and 11 rebounds before exiting the game in the 4th quarter.
“His ability to shoot three’s now has added a different dimension to his game,” said Nance Jr. “He’s playing at a super high level.”
The injury bug plaguing the Clippers has continued with Griffin expected to miss a few weeks. The Clippers have already lost guard Patrick Beverley for the season with a knee injury and forward Danilo Gallinari (hip) and guard Milos Teodosic (foot) are both recovering from injury.
The Lakers, who have fallen to 8-11 on the season, have no time to dwell on the loss to the Clippers, as their schedule only gets tougher as they host the defending NBA champion Warriors on Wednesday night. The Clippers will go on the road to face the Jazz on Thursday night.