With less than two weeks until the NBA playoffs get underway, both Los Angeles teams have been desperate to see their groups at full strength.
The Clippers looked the part and saw seven players finish in double figures with Paul George leading the way with 24 points and L.A. routed the undermanned Lakers 118-94, sweeping the season series 3-0 on Thursday night at Staples Center.
With the win, L.A. moved into third place in the Western Conference, while the Lakers are potentially at risk of falling into play-in territory at the No. 6. spot.
“Just proud of how we hung in there, how we stuck together all season,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said.
“We just got to find our rhythm, that’s the biggest thing right now. Just trying to find our rhythm going forward, trying to get it back where we had it earlier this season. It is going to take a little time as you saw tonight. First half I thought we did some good things, but [in the] second half I just didn’t like how we finished the game,” Lue added.
Kawhi Leonard had 15 points, eight rebounds and six assists, Ivica Zubac added 14 points and eight rebounds for the Clippers (45-22).
The Clippers shot above 53% from the field and converted 13-of-31 three-pointers, while holding the Lakers to 27 percent from beyond the arc.
However, the Lakers forced the Clippers to commit a season-high 22 turnovers even while the game was never in question.
“They’re the champions right now. Obviously, they are bringing something on that end of the floor,” Leonard said on the Lakers defense. “You always got to correct those mistakes out there. We still want to get better.”
Kyle Kuzma led the Lakers (37-29) with 25 points, Montrezl Harrell had 14 and Alex Caruso added eight points and seven assists.
Anthony Davis played nine minutes in the first quarter and left the game with back spasms and did not return after scoring four points on 2-of-9 shooting.
“I know it looked bad, but it’s fine,” Davis said on his ankle, also adding that his back locking up forced his exit.
“When we’re 100% healthy we are the top team in the league, so we keep that in our minds,” Davis added.
Dennis Schroder (Health and safety), LeBron James (Ankle) and Talen Horton-Tucker (Calf) were also all out for the Lakers.
“We’re hanging in there,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “No one is feeling sorry for themselves. We know we’ve got to be better even under adverse circumstances.”
The Clippers led 29-20 in the first quarter and never looked back after maintaining a double-digit advantage the rest of the way.
“Our intensity was great from jump,” George said. “We got to the paint, made extra plays and defensively we were locked into the game plan.”
DeMarcus Cousins scored nine of his 11 points in the second, recording a steal and dunk during an 8-0 run to give the Clippers a 49-32 lead with 6:35 remaining. Rajon Rondo also had 11, five assists and a steal in 17 minutes of play, leading the bench unit.
The Clippers led 65-42 at halftime after shooting 65 percent through 24 minutes of play.
The Lakers got within 17 after Kuzma made a three-pointer early in the third, but the Clippers went on to lead by as many as 25 in fourth, cruising to a dominating 118-94 victory.
“The chemistry is there without question. When you play it is a natural thing,” Cousins said. “We are working on ourselves every day. We are preparing for this long haul with the playoffs around the corner. Just Trying to tune up everything, fix the small mistakes that we make on a nightly basis and just try to get as close to perfect as we can before this playoff run happens.”
The Clippers will host the New York Knicks on Sunday at 12:30 P.M., while the Lakers will travel to Portland to face the Trailblazers on Friday night at 7:00 P.M.