To start the game, the Los Angeles Lakers led 8-1. It would be their largest lead on the day, as the Clippers would charge back and win 109 to 95. For most of the night, the Lakers were overmatched. In a significantly more desperate situation than their co-tenants, the Lakers were handily beaten by a team that had lost three of the last five games.
The battle for Los Angeles was more one-sided than the battle of the Alamo—speaking of which, the Spurs regained the top in the West on Sunday. Before anyone decides to talk playoff matchups, the Lakers need to make the playoffs. After the loss, they, once again, did not control their own destiny.
On Sunday, the Lakers stumbled.
Dwight Howard lacked energy on the boards and pulled down only four rebounds. For the first time in 15 games, Howard was not the leading rebounder at the end of a Laker game. Not only that, he was completely dominated in that department and looked like the slow, sluggish, and injured Howard who went into remission at the All-Star break.
Howard did manage 25 points on 8-14 from the field, and his free throws were an incredible 9-13. Still, the Lakers were beaten and battered on the boards, getting out rebounded 50-36.
“We normally do a much better job on the glass,” Kobe Bryant said after the game.
For their part, Pau Gasol and Bryant both fell just short of triple-doubles. Gasol finished with 12 points, 13 rebounds, and eight assists. Bryant, who only sat for 40 seconds out of 48 minutes, tabbed 25 points, 10 assists, and seven rebounds. However, Bryant shot a poor percentage from the field on the night, making only six of 19 shots.
All the aforementioned statistics may not be enough to explain a 14-point loss, but the Lakers simply did not receive enough contributions from their supporting cast. Besides Howard, Gasol and Bryant, Earl Clark was the only other Laker to hit double figures in points, and his 11 points on 4-10 shooting were a considerable drop-off from the contributions in the Lakers’ last two wins against Memphis and Dallas.
For all their shortcomings, the Lakers didn’t play all that bad on Sunday afternoon. They finished with 11 turnovers after recording seven in the first half. Four second half turnovers were still not enough to keep the Lakers in the game.
The Clippers made a habit of finishing quarters and taking control at crucial moments.
At the end of the first quarter, the Lakers led by five points with about two minutes remaining. By the time the quarter ended, two Matt Barnes 3-pointers contributed to the Lakers trailing by five points—a 10-point turnaround.
At the end of the second quarter, the Lakers were trailing by one point at the two-minute mark. By the time halftime came around, the Lakers were down by seven points—a six point drop-off.
The third quarter started the Clippers quickly doubling their lead to 14 points within five minutes of play. Allowing an extra seven points of separation would doom the Lakers. They would never experience a single-digit deficit again.
When asked if the Lakers played good on Sunday, Kobe Bryant responded, “We played okay.”
With five games to go, “Okay” is simply not good enough.