On Friday night, the Los Angeles Lakers played their final home game of 2017 and sufferred their fifth straight defeat, as the LA Clippers routed their city rivals, 121-106.
Blake Griffin marked his return from injury with a game-high 24 points, along with six rebounds and six assists in the victory. DeAndre Jordan finished the night with 12 points and 16 rebounds, as the big man dominated the undersized Lakers on the glass.
Julius Randle earned his first start of the season for the Lakers and finished with 18 points, seven rebounds and two assists, as Lakers coach Luke Walton gave the forward 29 minutes on the court, mostly as an undersized center.
The Lakers had a team meeting a day earlier to share frustrations and reset course after the team's play had fallen apart in recent games. Defensively, in particular, the Lakers no longer look like the side that consistently ranked in the top 10 to start the season.
The team meeting and the starting lineup switch, though, clearly did not have the desired impact for the Lakers. Six minutes into the game, the Clippers led 24-7. From there, the Lakers never truly threatened. At one point early in the third quarter, the Lakers cut the deficit to seven points, but the Clippers pushed the margin to double digits and the Lakers never threatened again.
Jordan Clarkson, who had been starting in place of injured point guard Lonzo Ball, lost his starting spot to allow Randle in. The backup guard finished with a team-high 20 points, eight assists and five rebounds in the loss. Also off the bench, Larry Nance Jr. made six of his seven shots and finished with 16 points, four rebounds, four assists, two steals and a block in only 18 minutes on the court.
"We’re not going to go into a meeting and come out and go 'Great! We're the Warriors now!' There’s none of that going on," Nance said after the game. "But, in terms of morale, in terms of togetherness, in terms of 'We're all in this as a unit, as a team and we're going to dig ourselves out it and to figure it out together,' yea, there was definitely some chemistry build and some comradery built. Especially in a rough patch in the season, there can be splintering, so that was good."
Of course, coming out of that meeting and laying an egg to start the game the next day is a tough pill to swallow for the team.
"It's a long season and right now, we're in the thick of it," Nance said. "Definitely, we're struggling."
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From the Lakers' standpoint, one play summed up the night. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope drew a crowd of defenders and thought it a good idea to toss a pass off the backboard to himself. Instead, he missed the backboard and threw the ball out of bounds.
With the defeat, the Lakers dropped to 11-23 on the season, while the Clippers improved to 15-19 with the victory.