Lakers dismantle Pelicans in second half for fifth straight win

  • The Lakers’ Kyle Kuzma knocks a rebound away from the Pelicans’ Josh Hart during Friday’s game at Staples Center. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • The Lakers’ LeBron James (23) moves the ball up court as the Pelicans’ Steven Adams (12) defends during their NBA game at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Friday, January 15, 2021. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • The Lakers’ Montrezl Harrell (15) looks to pass as the Pelicans’ Nicolo Melli (20) defends during their NBA game at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Friday, January 15, 2021. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • The Lakers’ Anthony Davis (3) looks to pass as the Pelicans’ Steven Adams (12) defends during their NBA game at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Friday, January 15, 2021. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • The Pelicans’ Brandon Ingram (14) shoots as the Lakers’ Anthony Davis (3) defends during their NBA game at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Friday, January 15, 2021. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • The Lakers’ LeBron James (23) grabs a rebound away from the Pelicans’ Steven Adams (12) during their NBA game at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Friday, January 15, 2021. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • New Orleans Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram (14) shoots over Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 15, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 15: Brandon Ingram #14 of the New Orleans Pelicans offensive foul on Anthony Davis #3 of the Los Angeles Lakers during the first half at Staples Center on January 15, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

  • The Pelicans’ Brandon Ingram (14) fouls the Lakers’ Anthony Davis (3) on his way to the hoop during their NBA game at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Friday, January 15, 2021. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • The Lakers’ Montrezl Harrell (15) dunks the ball during their NBA game against the Pelicans at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Friday, January 15, 2021. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • The Lakers’ Anthony Davis (3) shoots as Pelicans’ Nicolo Melli (20) and Eric Bledsoe (5) defend during their NBA game at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Friday, January 15, 2021. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • The Lakers’ Anthony Davis (3) shoots as the Pelicans’ Steven Adams (12) defends during their NBA game at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Friday, January 15, 2021. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • The Lakers’ Anthony Davis (3) blocks the shot of the Pelicans’ Zion Williamson (1) during their NBA game at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Friday, January 15, 2021. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • The Lakers’ Dennis Schroder (17) dives for a loose ball as the Pelicans’ Nickeil Alexander-Walker (6) defends during their NBA game at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Friday, January 15, 2021. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • The Lakers’ Anthony Davis shoots during Friday’s game against the Pelicans at Staples Center. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • The Lakers’ Dennis Schroder (17) passes the ball as the Pelicans’ Eric Bledsoe (5) defends during their NBA game at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Friday, January 15, 2021. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • The Lakers’ LeBron James (23) passes the ball during their NBA game against the Pelicans at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Friday, January 15, 2021. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • The Lakers’ LeBron James (23) wipes his face during their NBA game against the Pelicans at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Friday, January 15, 2021. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • The Lakers’ Anthony Davis (3) blocks the shot of the Pelicans’ Zion Williamson (1) during their NBA game at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Friday, January 15, 2021. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • The Pelicans’ Nickeil Alexander-Walker (6) attempts to keep the ball inbounds as the Lakers’ LeBron James (23) defends during their NBA game at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Friday, January 15, 2021. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • The Pelicans’ Zion Williamson (1) dunks the ball during their NBA game against the Lakers at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Friday, January 15, 2021. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • The Lakers’ Anthony Davis (3) shoots a 3-point shot as the Pelicans’ Steven Adams (12) defends during their NBA game at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Friday, January 15, 2021. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 15: Head coach Frank Vogel watches play against the New Orleans Pelicans during the first half at Staples Center on January 15, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 15: LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers keep the ball from Zion Williamson #1 of the New Orleans Pelicans during the first half at Staples Center on January 15, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 15: Zion Williamson #1 of the New Orleans Pelicans pivots around Anthony Davis #3 of the Los Angeles Lakers during the first half at Staples Center on January 15, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 15: Zion Williamson #1 of the New Orleans Pelicans scores on a layup during the first half against the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center on January 15, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 15: Brandon Ingram #14 of the New Orleans Pelicans loses his dribble as Dennis Schroder #17 of the Los Angeles Lakers falls during the first half at Staples Center on January 15, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 15: Anthony Davis #3 of the Los Angeles Lakers scores over Zion Williamson #1 of the New Orleans Pelicans during the first half at Staples Center on January 15, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 15: Dennis Schroder #17 of the Los Angeles Lakers drives to the basket past Eric Bledsoe #5 of the New Orleans Pelicans during the first half at Staples Center on January 15, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 15: Dennis Schroder #17 of the Los Angeles Lakers dives for the ball in front of Nickeil Alexander-Walker #6 of the New Orleans Pelicans and LeBron James #23 during the first half at Staples Center on January 15, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 15: LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers scores in front of Nicolo Melli #20 and Nickeil Alexander-Walker #6 of the New Orleans Pelicans during the first half at Staples Center on January 15, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 15: Nickeil Alexander-Walker #6 of the New Orleans Pelicans dribbles in front of Dennis Schroder #17 of the Los Angeles Lakers during the first half at Staples Center on January 15, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 15: Zion Williamson #1 of the New Orleans Pelicans is fouled by LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers as he drives on Markieff Morris #88 during the first half at Staples Center on January 15, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 15: LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers celebrates a play with Montrezl Harrell #15 and Dennis Schroder #17 during the first half against the New Orleans Pelicans at Staples Center on January 15, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 15: LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers celebrates a basket with Anthony Davis #3 and Alex Caruso #4 during the first half against the New Orleans Pelicans at Staples Center on January 15, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

  • New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson (1) dunks during the first quarter of the team’s NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Lakers Friday, Jan. 15, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis (3) deflects a shot by New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson (1) during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 15, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • New Orleans Pelicans guard Josh Hart (3) tries to take the ball from Los Angeles Lakers guard Dennis Schroeder, left, during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 15, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • New Orleans Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram (14) reaches for a rebound between forward Zion Williamson (1) and Los Angeles Lakers center Marc Gasol, right, during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 15, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson, right, defends against Los Angeles Lakers guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 15, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James, top, and New Orleans Pelicans center Steven Adams (12) air their differences during the second quarter of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 15, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • New Orleans Pelicans forward Nicolo Melli, left, and center Steven Adams (12) defend against Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) during the second quarter of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 15, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Los Angeles Lakers guard Dennis Schroeder, right, defends against New Orleans Pelicans guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker during the second quarter of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 15, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) shoots against New Orleans Pelicans guard Josh Hart (3) during the second quarter of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 15, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis (3) shoots against New Orleans Pelicans center Steven Adams (12) during the second quarter of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 15, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 15: Montrezl Harrell #15 of the Los Angeles Lakers steals a pass at center court during a 112-95 Los Angeles Lakers win over the New Orleans Pelicans at Staples Center on January 15, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 15: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope #1 of the Los Angeles Lakers celebrates a three pointer from LeBron James #23 after a timeout during a 112-95 Los Angeles Lakers win over the New Orleans Pelicans at Staples Center on January 15, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 15: Montrezl Harrell #15 of the Los Angeles Lakers celebrates a three pointer from LeBron James #23 during a 112-95 Los Angeles Lakers win over the New Orleans Pelicans at Staples Center on January 15, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 15: LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers looks up at a replay during a 112-95 Los Angeles Lakers win over the New Orleans Pelicans at Staples Center on January 15, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 15: Zion Williamson #1 of the New Orleans Pelicans gets position in front of LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers during a 112-95 Los Angeles Lakers win at Staples Center on January 15, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 15: Montrezl Harrell #15 of the Los Angeles Lakers scores on a layup around Nicolo Melli #20 of the New Orleans Pelicans during a 112-95 Los Angeles Lakers win at Staples Center on January 15, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 15: LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers blocks the shot of Kira Lewis Jr. #13 of the New Orleans Pelicans during a 112-95 Los Angeles Lakers win at Staples Center on January 15, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 15: LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers dribbles in front of Brandon Ingram #14 of the New Orleans Pelicans during a 112-95 Los Angeles Lakers win at Staples Center on January 15, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 15: Zion Williamson #1 of the New Orleans Pelicans attempts a shot in front of Anthony Davis #3 of the Los Angeles Lakers during a 112-95 Los Angeles Lakers win at Staples Center on January 15, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 15: LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers drives to the basket in front of Josh Hart #3 of the New Orleans Pelicans during the first half at Staples Center on January 15, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 15: LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers keep the ball from Zion Williamson #1 of the New Orleans Pelicans during the first half at Staples Center on January 15, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 15: Brandon Ingram #14 of the New Orleans Pelicans passes in front of Anthony Davis #3 and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope #1 of the Los Angeles Lakers during the first half at Staples Center on January 15, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

  • Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) dunks against New Orleans Pelicans forward Nicolo Melli, center, during the third quarter of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 15, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Los Angeles Lakers center Montrezl Harrell dunks during the fourth quarter of the team’s NBA basketball game against the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • New Orleans Pelicans guard Kira Lewis Jr. goes to the basket as Los Angeles Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma (0) and center Montrezl Harrell (15) defend during the third quarter of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 15, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • New Orleans Pelicans center Steven Adams (12) shoots over Los Angeles Lakers center Montrezl Harrell (15) during the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 15, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson dunks during the third quarter of the team’s NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson (1) shoots as Los Angeles Lakers center Montrezl Harrell (15) defends during the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 15, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) defends against New Orleans Pelicans guard Kira Lewis Jr. (13) during the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 15, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 15: Head coach Frank Vogel of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts as LeBron James #23 leaves the game during a 112-95 Lakers win over the New Orleans Pelicans at Staples Center on January 15, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 15: Kyle Kuzma #0 of the Los Angeles Lakers gives an interview after a 112-95 Lakers win over the New Orleans Pelicans at Staples Center on January 15, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 15: LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers gives an interview after a 112-95 Lakers win over the New Orleans Pelicans at Staples Center on January 15, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

of

Expand

LOS ANGELES — The Lakers have looked a lot like frontrunners lately, riding a winning streak that saw them ring up several blowouts on the road. How, then, would they respond to a youthful team out-shooting them and out-defending them to take a 15-point lead?

With plenty of patience.

As the visiting New Orleans Pelicans got out to an explosive start at Staples Center on Friday night, the Lakers steadily hung in, then crept back – first in the margins, then finally, overwhelmingly in the third quarter when the dam broke with a 15-0 run on the way to a 112-95 victory, the Lakers’ fifth straight.

LeBron James (21 points), of course, provided the crowning moment of the rally with a highlight-reel putback dunk. The power in his legs still belies his 36 years, but the steadiness with which he and the Lakers (11-3) handled their upstart competitors and their young stars, Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram, spoke to how much experience separates these teams.

“There is no saving something for later in the season,” James laughed afterward. “My body’s ready to play whatever I need to play over the course of the game. I go hard when I’m out there and I start my treatment after the game. So, I wish I could bank time.”

The league-leading Lakers can certainly bank wins.

The Pelicans were rocked in the second half on every level, scoring just 37 points after halftime while finding their sturdy first-half defense torn apart: The Lakers’ passing prowess netted them 31 assists on 39 field goals on the night, led by James’ 11. Six Lakers scored in double figures, including Anthony Davis (17 points) and Montrezl Harrell (16 points).

From the 6:40 mark of the third quarter until there were 55 seconds remaining, New Orleans couldn’t score at all. The Lakers came out of a timeout with fadeaway shots from James and center Marc Gasol, and from then it was off to the races.

It looked different than the dominant three-game road trip when the Lakers hung big early leads on the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder. Davis said the team might have been dragging from getting back home, where they are just 4-3.

“It can kinda wear on you a little bit and get you off on a slow start,” he said. “We overcame it tonight.”

It was a dramatically different tone from the start of the night, when the Lakers were a Davis free throw shy of their lowest-scoring first quarter of the season. They missed seven of their first 24 shots, getting just 20 points.

On the other side of the ball, they held the wrecking ball-body of Williamson (21 points) in check with double-teams in the paint. They had fewer answers for Ingram, the former Laker, who diced them up from all over the floor with jumpers and drives. He scored 17 of his 20 points in the first half.

The Lakers began to turn things around in the second quarter at the free-throw line, warming up what had been cold hands. Davis found his stroke after missing eight of his first 10 attempts from the field, and between the stripe and a few jumpers, the former Pelican scored nine of the last 14 points of the first half.

Dennis Schröder hit a banked-in floater to cut the margin to a single point at halftime, despite the fact that New Orleans shot 61 percent in the first half to the Lakers’ 40 percent. But Coach Frank Vogel said it was Schröder’s steals in the second quarter that truly gave the team the spark.

“The fight that he showed picking up full court, getting those two turnovers, really creating some havoc for their offense, really positioned us to do what we did in the second half,” Vogel said. “It’s a one-point game at halftime; it could’ve been a 10-, 15-point differential.”

The shooting gap was almost completely made up in the Lakers’ advantages in the turnover margin (plus-11 at the half) and at the free-throw line (20 Laker attempts to three for the Pelicans). The Lakers wound up with 12 fewer turnovers and 15 more made free throws in the game.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (16 points) capped a strong week returning from injury with his best shot-making performance yet. Among his four 3-pointers on the evening, the third quarter saw him nail one while falling to the court, sealing his claim as the most reliable deep threat on the team. He moved up to ninth all-time in franchise history with 423 3-pointers as a Laker.

Still, on a team shooting the NBA’s third-best percentage from 3-point range (39.6 percent), there is competition. Kyle Kuzma hit three, Alex Caruso hit three, and James hit two. James might still have a case as the best overall shooter on the team, given he’s the only one regularly allowed to pull up from the logo.

“LeBron’s always gonna be up there because he shoots a ton of them, especially when he gets hot, and starts shooting halfcourt and things like that,” Davis said. “I don’t think Coach will maybe allow Kenny to do that.”

For now, the most compelling competition remains between the Lakers themselves –not against the rest of the league.

👑@KingJames powers the @Lakers to an NBA-best 11-3. #LakeShow

21 PTS | 8 REB | 11 AST pic.twitter.com/0RQX0hSNaN

— NBA (@NBA) January 16, 2021

LeBron 🔨 in #PhantomCam.

LAL/GSW ⏩ Mon. (1/18), 10pm/et, TNT pic.twitter.com/0Y8KzVpnKT

— NBA (@NBA) January 16, 2021

“My body is ready to play.”@KingJames on how he feels at age 36, playing limited minutes and the #Lakers performance down the stretch. pic.twitter.com/bVv5kECgKm

— Spectrum SportsNet (@SpectrumSN) January 16, 2021

🚫 AD says NO on ESPN! 🚫pic.twitter.com/jnULvJ9r3L

— NBA (@NBA) January 16, 2021

Read more about Lakers dismantle Pelicans in second half for fifth straight win This post was shared via Orange County Register’s RSS Feed

Powered by WPeMatico

Clippers shoot their way past short-handed Pelicans

  • Clippers center Serge Ibaka blocks a shot by the Pelicans’ Nickeil Alexander-Walker during the second half of Wednesday’s game at Staples Center. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 13: Jaxson Hayes #10 of the New Orleans Pelicans battles Marcus Morris Sr. #8 of the LA Clippers for a rebound during the first half of a game at Staples Center on January 13, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.
    (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 13: Brandon Ingram #14 of the New Orleans Pelicans drives past Kawhi Leonard #2 of the LA Clippers during the first half of a game at Staples Center on January 13, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.
    (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 13: Brandon Ingram #14 of the New Orleans Pelicans lays up a shot past the defense of Serge Ibaka #9 of the LA Clippers during the first half of a game at Staples Center on January 13, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.
    (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 13: Steven Adams #12 of the New Orleans Pelicans pushes Kawhi Leonard #2 of the LA Clippers during the first half of a game at Staples Center on January 13, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.
    (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 13: Brandon Ingram #14 of the New Orleans Pelicans attempts to dribble past the defense of Kawhi Leonard #2 of the LA Clippers during the first half of a game at Staples Center on January 13, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.
    (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 13: Brandon Ingram #14 of the New Orleans Pelicans dribbles into the defense of Patrick Beverley #21 of the LA Clippers during the first half of a game at Staples Center on January 13, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.
    (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 13: Brandon Ingram #14 of the New Orleans Pelicans dribbles into the defense of Patrick Beverley #21 of the LA Clippers during the first half of a game at Staples Center on January 13, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.
    (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 13: Ivica Zubac #40 of the LA Clippers defends against a shot by Jaxson Hayes #10 of the New Orleans Pelicans during the first half of a game at Staples Center on January 13, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.
    (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 13: Ivica Zubac #40 of the LA Clippers defends against a shot by Josh Hart #3 of the New Orleans Pelicans during the first half of a game at Staples Center on January 13, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.
    (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 13: Nicolo Melli #20 of the New Orleans Pelicans shoots past the defense of Nicolas Batum #33 of the LA Clippers during the first half of a game at Staples Center on January 13, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.
    (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 13: Steven Adams #12 of the New Orleans Pelicans shoots past the defense of Kawhi Leonard #2 of the LA Clippers during the second half of a game at Staples Center on January 13, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 13: Kawhi Leonard #2 of the LA Clippers dribbles past Steven Adams #12 of the New Orleans Pelicans during the second half of a game at Staples Center on January 13, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 13: Kawhi Leonard #2 of the LA Clippers dribbles past Steven Adams #12 of the New Orleans Pelicans during the second half of a game at Staples Center on January 13, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 13: Kawhi Leonard #2 of the LA Clippers passes past Steven Adams #12 of the New Orleans Pelicans during the second half of a game at Staples Center on January 13, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 13: Kawhi Leonard #2 of the LA Clippers dribbles past Steven Adams #12 of the New Orleans Pelicans during the second half of a game at Staples Center on January 13, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 13: Jaxson Hayes #10 of the New Orleans Pelicans defends against a dribbling Kawhi Leonard #2 of the LA Clippers during the second half of a game at Staples Center on January 13, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.
    (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 13: Josh Hart #3 of the New Orleans Pelicans defends against Kawhi Leonard #2 of the LA Clippers during the second half of a game at Staples Center on January 13, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 13: Josh Hart #3 of the New Orleans Pelicans defends against Kawhi Leonard #2 of the LA Clippers during the second half of a game at Staples Center on January 13, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 13: Kawhi Leonard #2 of the LA Clippers pushes back on the defense of Josh Hart #3 of the New Orleans Pelicans during the second half of a game at Staples Center on January 13, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 13: Kawhi Leonard #2 of the LA Clippers attempts to dunk over the defense of Nicolo Melli #20 of the New Orleans Pelicans during the second half of a game at Staples Center on January 13, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 13: Josh Hart #3 of the New Orleans Pelicans defends against a shot by Paul George #13 of the LA Clippers during the second half of a game at Staples Center on January 13, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 13: Ivica Zubac #40 and Luke Kennard #5 of the LA Clippers defend against a pass by JJ Redick #4 of the New Orleans Pelicans during the second half of a game at Staples Center on January 13, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 13: Kawhi Leonard #2, Ivica Zubac #40 and Marcus Morris Sr. #8 of the LA Clippers defend against Jaxson Hayes #10 of the New Orleans Pelicans during the second half of a game at Staples Center on January 13, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 13: Ivica Zubac #40 of the LA Clippers defends against a shot by Josh Hart #3 of the New Orleans Pelicans during the second half of a game at Staples Center on January 13, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 13: Kawhi Leonard #2 of the LA Clippers makes a shot past the defense of Josh Hart #3 of the New Orleans Pelicans during the second half of a game at Staples Center on January 13, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 13: Paul George #13 of the LA Clippers dribbles into the defense of Steven Adams #12 of the New Orleans Pelicans during the second half of a game at Staples Center on January 13, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard (2) defends against New Orleans Pelicans guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker (6) during the second quarter of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 13: Patrick Beverley #21 of the LA Clippers battles JJ Redick #4 of the New Orleans Pelicans for a rebound during the second half of a game at Staples Center on January 13, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 13: Steven Adams #12 and Brandon Ingram #14 of the New Orleans Pelicans attempt to stop Paul George #13 of the LA Clippers during the second half of a game at Staples Center on January 13, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.
    (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard (2) defends against New Orleans Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram (14) during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • New Orleans Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram (14) shoots next to Los Angeles Clippers center Serge Ibaka (9) during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Los Angeles Clippers forward Nicolas Batum (33) defends against New Orleans Pelicans guard Sindarius Thornwell (15) during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • New Orleans Pelicans guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker (6) shoots against Los Angeles Clippers center Ivica Zubac (40) during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Los Angeles Clippers guard Patrick Beverley (21) blocks a shot by New Orleans Pelicans center Jaxson Hayes, center, during the second quarter of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021, in Los Angeles. Clippers center Ivica Zubac (40) defends. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Los Angeles Clippers center Ivica Zubac, rear, defends against New Orleans Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram (14) during the second quarter of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Los Angeles Clippers guard Paul George (13) makes a 3-pointer against New Orleans Pelicans guard Sindarius Thornwell (15) at the end of the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Los Angeles Clippers guard Paul George, top right, is congratulated after his 3-pointer at the end of the first half of the team’s NBA basketball game against the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • New Orleans Pelicans guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker (6) shoots past Los Angeles Clippers center Serge Ibaka (9) during the second quarter of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard (2) shoots between New Orleans Pelicans guard Josh Hart (3) and center Steven Adams (12) during the second quarter of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • New Orleans Pelicans center Steven Adams (12) defends against Los Angeles Clippers guard Paul George (13) during the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • New Orleans Pelicans center Steven Adams (12) defends against Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard, right, during the third quarter of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • New Orleans Pelicans center Jaxson Hayes (10) defends against Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard (2) during the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Los Angeles Clippers center Serge Ibaka, top right, defends against New Orleans Pelicans guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker (6) during the third quarter of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard (2) shoots as New Orleans Pelicans center Steven Adams (12) defends during the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • New Orleans Pelicans guard JJ Redick (4) passes the ball over Los Angeles Clippers center Ivica Zubac (40) and guard Luke Kennard (5) during the third quarter of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Los Angeles Clippers center Ivica Zubac (40) dunks during the fourth quarter of the team’s NBA basketball game against the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • New Orleans Pelicans guard Sindarius Thornwell (15) defends against Los Angeles Clippers guard Paul George (13) during the third quarter of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Pelicans center Steven Adams, rear, hugs Clippers guard Paul George after Wednesday’s game at Staples Center. The two used to be teammates in Oklahoma City. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

of

Expand

LOS ANGELES — The Staples Center stage was set up for a clash of styles and, on Wednesday night, a stark difference of fortunes.

Fully staffed at the outset, the favored Clippers avoided the trappings of life against an undermanned underdog, getting past a pesky New Orleans Pelicans team that was down three starters, including superstar sophomore Zion Williamson.

“When you have a lot of talent sometimes, you can fall victim to that, but we just got to make sure we’re just taking advantage of every day, every game, every practice and trying to get better,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said before his team’s 111-106 victory.

“Our main focus,” Lue insisted, “is us getting better each night, not about the opponent.”

That “professional focus,” as Lue termed it, has been a willed skill that’s required nurturing, to hear Ivica Zubac tell it.

“We come out with the same mindset,” the center said, before revising that statement slightly: “We try to come out with the same mindset – ever since that Dallas game (a franchise-worst 51-point loss).

“We know we’re going to get the best shot from every team, every night and we’re prepared for it. … I think we got better at that from last year, but we can still be better at that.”

It won’t hurt to lodge victories such as Wednesday’s against the Pelicans, who, despite being shorthanded, played their part admirably.

Coach Stan Van Gundy’s squad dominated the boards, 48-36 – fully in character for the team that showed up Wednesday with a league-best rebounding percentage of 54.1 percent.

The Pelicans also did their requisite damage in the paint, outscoring their hosts down low, 52-20.

And they got a boost from second-year guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker, who flourished in his first start of the season, leading the Pelicans with 37 points (on 15-for-23 shooting) and eight rebounds, both career highs.

But those areas of success weren’t enough against the NBA’s top 3-point shooting team (L.A. is shooting 42.9 percent from deep), which continued to drive, kick and connect from distance – going 18 for 37 against New Orleans.

“I just think taking the right 3s, playing the right way, is the biggest thing for us,” said Lue, whose players excelled at setting up one another Wednesday, assisting on 26 of their 35 made baskets. “We really had the ball hopping tonight early on and we still had some possessions in the second half where the ball was moving as well. We just got to continue to play in the right way through the game.”

While the Pelicans (4-6) shot 10 for 28 from deep, half of the Clippers’ shots originated from behind the arc, and six Clippers connected on multiple 3s. George was responsible for five of them – the ninth time this season he’s hit four or more in a game and the seventh time he made at least five.

“Just shooting it with confidence and really just knowing the shots I’ma get, so I knew what to look for, I know what to expect, I know how the shots are coming,” George said.

Kawhi Leonard led the Clippers with 28 points and nine assists, and George weaved his way through New Orleans’ defense for a typically pretty assortment of baskets, scoring 27 points on shot-making that included a fourth-quarter layup, flipped off the top of the backboard, as well as the 3-pointer as time expired in the first half.

That first-half-finishing trey punctuated a 21-4 run and ended with George falling backward into the arms of Serge Ibaka, who wrapped him in a bear hug and carried him off the court, their lead 18 points.

With the Clippers feeling thinner in the second half, when Lou Williams sat with a sore hip, the Pelicans closed to within 89-85 with 8:11 to go – but L.A. used its long-range skills to nudge the door closed.

Patrick Beverley’s third 3-pointer recreated some distance and Leonard’s first 3-pointer (of two) shortly thereafter made it 97-87, and had team owner Steve Ballmer whipping his right arm in the air from his seat next to the basket.

The Clippers ran a rotation of defenders at Brandon Ingram, last season’s Most Improved Player awardee, and he finished with 22 points on 8-for-19 shooting.

In addition to Williamson (ruled out because of inconclusive coronavirus test results), the Pelicans were missing Lonzo Ball (bilateral knee tendinopathy) and Eric Bledsoe (right eye irritation). Together, the trio accounts for 46.1 points and 15.6 rebounds per game.

The victory was the Clippers’ second in a row, breaking a seven-game, win-one-lose-one pattern they’d been mired in since their 128-105 victory over Portland on Dec. 30.

“Games like this are dangerous, when key guys are out,” Lue said. “Sometimes, you let your guard down. I thought the first half we really didn’t, I thought we really did a good job of coming out with a professional focus.”

Read more about Clippers shoot their way past short-handed Pelicans This post was shared via Orange County Register’s RSS Feed

Powered by WPeMatico

Lakers squeak by Spurs as Anthony Davis scores 34

For many years, a trip to the playoffs meant at least a few nights in San Antonio for the Lakers.

But in the regular season? Two games on the road against the same opponent is something new that Frank Vogel was wary of from the start. After beating an undermanned San Antonio on Wednesday, he worried even before the game whether the Lakers would bring the same effort.

A little of that complacency leaked through in a 109-103 win on Friday night, in which the Lakers (4-2) got the same result as two nights before in a much uglier fashion. If not for Anthony Davis, who scored a season-best 34 points, and a few gutty plays in the closing minutes, the Lakers might have started 2021 on a discordant note.

But they did just enough: They outscored the Spurs 9-0 in the final 2:26 of the game, as LeBron James (26 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists) bowled Derrick White over then dodged a flying Keldon Johnson to kiss a clinching basket off the glass.

“I think we just persisted through our struggles and that’s going to happen from time to time,” Vogel said. “You’re going to have some wins that are a little uglier than others.”

After a number of games in which they blew opponents away with on-target shooting, the Lakers slumped from the floor. They were worse inside the arc (39.7 percent) than outside of it (42.4 percent). James and Dennis Schröder in particular struggled for efficiency, scoring a combined 41 points on 37 shots.

But Davis had his best offensive game, and his range was the weapon that the Spurs could not counter. The 27-year-old was 4 for 6 from deep, adding to his 11 rebounds and five assists for an effort that helped lift his team.

His 3-pointer to tie the game with 2:26 left started the closing rally, in which he also grabbed a key defensive rebound.

The 3-point shooting is an aspect that the Lakers hope will continue to open up their already well-spaced offense. Who can stop a 6-foot-10 forward with a reliable deep shot?

“Coach wants me to shoot at least five, average five, a game this year,” Davis said. “I had a lot of good looks. Sometimes I pass up for a better shot. But I just got to shoot it.”

The game was tied 15 times, with 21 lead changes. Even though the Spurs were without LaMarcus Aldridge for a second straight game, Johnson scored a team-best 26 points while DeMar DeRozan had 23.

The Lakers were frustrated by a lack of whistles: They had 10 fewer free throw attempts than the Spurs. After his final basket, James gestured to an official wanting a foul on Johnson — a continuation of a steady dialogue throughout the night. He did make the most of his appearances at the stripe, going 7 for 7.

It was a game when James acknowledged he felt the lack of fans drained the game of energy.

“It’s going to be a long season. It’s going to be a difficult season,” James said. “You’re going to have to have games where you’re going to have to give energy to one another. Manifest energy for yourself without the fans and things of that nature.”

The pandemic drove the NBA to create a more conservative travel schedule with consecutive road games in the same cities. Before Friday night, the Lakers hadn’t played two road regular season games against the same opponent since 1965.

Vogel said there are some restrictions that make normal routines difficult: Players and staff have to do rapid coronavirus testing every morning before meeting, and they can’t use hotel weight rooms. Many other aspects are normal, but trying to sweep an opponent twice on one trip can seem daunting, if only because of human foibles.

“There’s a mental challenge to that that I think of teams are going to see throughout the year,” Vogel said. “I think you see a lot of splits in these situations and we were susceptible to that tonight, but like I said, we were able to persevere and get the W.”

Powered by WPeMatico

Kawhi Leonard returns as Clippers cruise past Blazers

  • The Clippers’ Nicolas Batum grabs a rebound in front of the Blazers’ Carmelo Anthony during the first half of Wednesday’s game at Staples Center. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

  • Portland Trail Blazers’ Damian Lillard, center, has his shot blocked by Los Angeles Clippers’ Ivica Zubac during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

  • Los Angeles Clippers’ Paul George, center, drives between Portland Trail Blazers’ Derrick Jones Jr., right, and Jusuf Nurkic during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 30: Damian Lillard #0 of the Portland Trail Blazers drives to the basket on Patrick Patterson #54 of the LA Clippers during the first half at Staples Center on December 30, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

  • Los Angeles Clippers’ Nicolas Batum, center, dunks against the Portland Trail Blazers during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 30: Carmelo Anthony #00 of the Portland Trail Blazers attempts a shot in front of Paul George #13 of the LA Clippers during the first half at Staples Center on December 30, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

  • The Blazers’ Damian Lillard, left, grabs the arm of the Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard during the first half of Wednesday’s game at Staples Center. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

  • Los Angeles Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard points to a teammate during the first half of the team’s NBA basketball game against the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

  • Portland Trail Blazers’ Carmelo Anthony, center, is defended by Los Angeles Clippers’ Ivica Zubac, left, and Paul George during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

  • Los Angeles Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard, center, and Paul George are greeted by teammates during a timeout in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 30: Anfernee Simons #1 of the Portland Trail Blazers passes between Paul George #13, Serge Ibaka #9 and Reggie Jackson #1 of the LA Clippers during the first half at Staples Center on December 30, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

  • Los Angeles Clippers’ Luke Kennard, right, drives under pressure from Portland Trail Blazers’ Rodney Hood during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 30: Damian Lillard #0 of the Portland Trail Blazers watches as Paul George #13 of the LA Clippers makes a move during the first half at Staples Center on December 30, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

  • Los Angeles Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard, center, passes the ball under pressure from Portland Trail Blazers’ Derrick Jones Jr., left, and Jusuf Nurkic during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

  • Los Angeles Clippers’ Lou Williams dribbles the ball during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Portland Trail Blazers Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 30: Reggie Jackson #1 of the LA Clippers is fouled on a layup by Enes Kanter #11 of the Portland Trail Blazers during the first half at Staples Center on December 30, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 30: Damian Lillard #0 of the Portland Trail Blazers attempts a layup in front of Paul George #13 of the LA Clippers during the first half at Staples Center on December 30, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

  • Los Angeles Clippers’ Patrick Beverley, center, goes up for a basket as Portland Trail Blazers’ Jusuf Nurkic and Damian Lillard defend during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 30: Jusuf Nurkic #27 of the Portland Trail Blazers blocks the shot of Patrick Beverley #21 of the LA Clippers during the first half at Staples Center on December 30, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

  • Los Angeles Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard passes the ball during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Portland Trail Blazers Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 30: Damian Lillard #0 and CJ McCollum #3 of the Portland Trail Blazers react as Paul George #13 of the LA Clippers takes a shot during the first half at Staples Center on December 30, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 30: Damian Lillard #0 of the Portland Trail Blazers guards Kawhi Leonard #2 of the LA Clippers during the first half at Staples Center on December 30, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 30: Kawhi Leonard #2 of the LA Clippers backs in on Damian Lillard #0 of the Portland Trail Blazers during the first half at Staples Center on December 30, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 30: Kawhi Leonard #2 of the LA Clippers dribbles in front of Damian Lillard #0 of the Portland Trail Blazers during the first half at Staples Center on December 30, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 30: Damian Lillard #0 of the Portland Trail Blazers passes between Patrick Beverley #21, Serge Ibaka #9 and Nicolas Batum #33 of the LA Clippers during the first half at Staples Center on December 30, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 30: Damian Lillard #0 of the Portland Trail Blazers guards Paul George #13 of the LA Clippers during the first half at Staples Center on December 30, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 30: Damian Lillard #0 of the Portland Trail Blazers drives between Patrick Beverley #21, Serge Ibaka #9 and Nicolas Batum #33 of the LA Clippers during the first half at Staples Center on December 30, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 30: Kawhi Leonard #2 of the LA Clippers wears a face guard during the first half against the Portland Trail Blazers at Staples Center on December 30, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 30: Damian Lillard #0 of the Portland Trail Blazers steals the ball from Lou Williams #23 of the LA Clippers during a 128-105 Clippers win at Staples Center on December 30, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 30: Kawhi Leonard #2 of the LA Clippers blocks the shot of Carmelo Anthony #00 of the Portland Trail Blazers during a 128-105 Clippers win at Staples Center on December 30, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 30: Kawhi Leonard #2 of the LA Clippers celebrates and his basket with Lou Williams #23 and Patrick Beverley #21 during a 128-105 Clippers win at Staples Center on December 30, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 30: Patrick Beverley #21 of the LA Clippers attempts to steal the ball from Damian Lillard #0 of the Portland Trail Blazers during a 128-105 Clippers win at Staples Center on December 30, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 30: Paul George #13 of the LA Clippers scores past Jusuf Nurkic #27 of the Portland Trail Blazers during a 128-105 Clippers win at Staples Center on December 30, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

  • Portland Trail Blazers’ Carmelo Anthony, left, looks to pass under pressure from Los Angeles Clippers’ Ivica Zubac during the second half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2020, in Los Angeles. The Clippers won 128-105. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 30: Head coach Tyronn Lue of the LA Clippers, calls out from the bench during a 128-105 Clippers win over the Portland Trail Blazers at Staples Center on December 30, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 30: Derrick Jones Jr. #55 of the Portland Trail Blazers and Lou Williams #23 of the LA Clippers reach for a loose ball during a 128-105 Clippers win at Staples Center on December 30, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

  • Portland Trail Blazers’ Anfernee Simons, center, passes the ball to Enes Kanter, right, while being defended by Los Angeles Clippers’ Ivica Zubac during the second half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2020, in Los Angeles. The Clippers won 128-105. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

  • Portland Trail Blazers’ Damian Lillard, left, is fouled by Los Angeles Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard during the second half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

  • Portland Trail Blazers’ Damian Lillard passes the ball around Los Angeles Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard during the second half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

  • Portland Trail Blazers’ Derrick Jones Jr., left, looks to shoot under pressure from Los Angeles Clippers’ Reggie Jackson during the second half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2020, in Los Angeles. The Clippers won 128-105. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

  • Los Angeles Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard shoots over Portland Trail Blazers’ Jusuf Nurkic during the second half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 30: Damian Lillard #0 of the Portland Trail Blazers watches during a 128-105 LA Clippers win over the Trail Blazers at Staples Center on December 30, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 30: Lou Williams #23 of the LA Clippers celebrates the basket with a foul from Ivica Zubac #40 during a 128-105 Clippers win over the Portland Trail Blazers at Staples Center on December 30, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

of

Expand

LOS ANGELES — Coach Tyronn Lue is in the habit of stressing the importance of good habits.

His Clippers seem to be making a habit of the blowout, welcoming a masked Kawhi Leonard back to the lineup on Wednesday night by rocking another Western Conference foe by 20-plus points at Staples Center.

With Leonard back in action – and being subjected to his teammates’ teasing nicknames such as “Leatherface” after he missed two games following a mouth laceration that required eight stitches on Christmas – the Clippers routed Portland, 128-105.

It was a tidy, no-doubt-about-it win even more to their new coach’s liking than their 23-point victory over Minnesota on Tuesday: He’d put in an order Wednesday for some early pop and some disruptive defense on Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard.

And the Clippers got it right. So, so right.

After starting sluggishly in their past two games – a franchise-worst blowout loss to Dallas on Sunday followed by Tuesday’s redeeming blowout victory against Minnesota – the Clippers’ starters came to play Wednesday.

After their coach insisted that “our first unit’s got to get off to better starts,” the Clippers (4-1) bolted to a 14-point first-quarter lead, assisting on 11 of their first 13 field goals and draining eight of their first 12 3-point attempts to set the tone to their liking.

“The last game, the starters came out slow, our bench brought our energy, and from there they picked it up,” Leonard said. “Pretty much tonight we tried to come out and bring that energy and intensity and just communicate, share the ball and we end up getting the win.”

Leonard sported a specially constructed mask protecting his jaw and adhered with two wide, white straps – a reminder of the Christmas collision between him and his friend Serge Ibaka, who accidentally struck Leonard with his elbow while pursuing a rebound.

The Clippers’ star joked Wednesday that there could be further ramifications for Ibaka stemming from the incident: “We got him on the trading block right now,” Leonard deadpanned. “So, whoever wants him, let us know, we trying to trade Serge.”

Lue said Leonard had noticeable trouble catching his breath early in his first game back, but that he showed admirable grit pushing through.

“Early on, especially in the first half, he was a little tired, a little winded,” Lue said, noting that Leonard stepped on the gas with 16 third-period points. “In the third quarter, he really pushed himself and started attacking the paint, started playing with force and playing with pace. He really took over that third quarter and built the lead for us.”

Darn straight he had trouble breathing, Leonard said: “(Shoot), it’s hard to breathe in that mask.”

Even so, Leonard was an active participant in the Clippers’ pretty passing display, which helped put the game out of reach. They finished with 30 assists (the third time this young season they’ve notched at least 30), including seven apiece Wednesday by George and Leonard – the latter of whom had six by halftime, his career-best for a half.

The ball movement uncorked another impressive offensive showing: Led by Leonard’s 28 points and George’s 23 (to go with 10 rebounds), six Clippers scored in double figures. As a team, they shot 49.5 percent (47 for 95) from the field and scored more than 30 points in all but the final period.

Defensively, the Clippers made it hard on Lillard by showing a variety of looks to the five-time All-Star who traded barbs with Clippers players in the bubble, but on Tuesday dismissed talk of a rivalry between the teams, telling Portland’s digital content producer Casey Holdahl: “I thought a rivalry was built on the court, you know what I’m saying?”

This time, the Clippers had the final word: Lillard finished with 20 points on 3-for-14 shooting (0 for 8 from 3-point range).

“If you watch Dame play, he’s ready to destroy any team that he plays against, it’s just not from trash-talking or what happened last year in the bubble,” Lue sid. “He is a very aggressive scorer and we know he can score 50 points on any given night. We just want to try to come out and set the tone early and try to blitz him to start the game, and he made some good passes and they got some good shots. But we were able to just kind of keep him off balance and the coaching staff did a great job of that.”

Lillard’s backcourt mate CJ McCollum went 8 for 17 and scored 25 points, Carmelo Anthony chipped in with 15, and Anfernee Simons added 10 but otherwise, no one had more than eight points for the Trail Blazers (2-2) as the Clippers held them to 42.1 percent shooting (32 for 76).

Ivica Zubac continued to cause opponents problems at the rim; the 7-foot center came off the bench to block three shots for the second consecutive game.

The @LAClippers improve to 4-1 behind Kawhi Leonard’s 28 PTS, 7 AST! #KiaTipOff20 pic.twitter.com/lsjMqs6nlU

— NBA (@NBA) December 31, 2020

“I thought a rivalry was built on the court, you know what I’m saying? I don’t think this is a rivalry.” — @Dame_Lillard on tonight’s game vs. Clippers

— Casey Holdahl (@CHold) December 30, 2020

Serge Ibaka recovers to pin it against the glass on @NBATV! #KiaTipOff20 pic.twitter.com/NOGEfDGus6

— NBA (@NBA) December 31, 2020

Kawhi gets his Klaw on it! 🖐#KiaTipOff20 on @NBATV pic.twitter.com/NmGf7lDnEI

— NBA (@NBA) December 31, 2020

Read more about Kawhi Leonard returns as Clippers cruise past Blazers This post was shared via Orange County Register’s RSS Feed

Powered by WPeMatico

Clippers reassert themselves with rout of Timberwolves

  • The Clippers’ Lou Williams wraps a pass around the defense of the Timberwolves’ Ed Davis during the first half of Tuesday’s game at Staples Center. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 29: Reggie Jackson #1 of the LA Clippers blocks a shot by Jake Layman #10 of the Minnesota Timberwolves during the first half of a game at Staples Center on December 29, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • Los Angeles Clippers guard Terance Mann (14) dunks against the Minnesota Timberwolves during the second quarter of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Los Angeles Clippers guard Reggie Jackson, left, and center Ivica Zubac (40) and Minnesota Timberwolves forward Ed Davis (17) reach for a rebound during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Clippers forward Serge Ibaka dunks during the second quarter of Tuesday’s game against the Timberwolves at Staples Center. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 29: Jordan McLaughlin #6 of the Minnesota Timberwolves drives past the defense of Ivica Zubac #40 of the LA Clippers during the first half of a game at Staples Center on December 29, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 29: Patrick Beverley #21 of the LA Clippers defends against Ricky Rubio #9 of the Minnesota Timberwolves during the first half of a game at Staples Center on December 29, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • Minnesota Timberwolves guard D’Angelo Russell, left, shoots against Los Angeles Clippers forward Nicolas Batum during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 29: Patrick Beverley #21 of the LA Clippers shoots past the defense of Naz Reid #11 and Ricky Rubio #9 of the Minnesota Timberwolves during the first half of a game at Staples Center on December 29, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 29: Ed Davis #17 of the Minnesota Timberwolves shoots past the defense of Ivica Zubac #40 of the LA Clippers during the first half of a game at Staples Center on December 29, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • Minnesota Timberwolves guard D’Angelo Russell, left, shoots against Los Angeles Clippers forward Nicolas Batum during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 29: Serge Ibaka #9 of the LA Clippers dunks past the defense of Ricky Rubio #9 and Naz Reid #11 of the Minnesota Timberwolves during the first half of a game at Staples Center on December 29, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard, center, high-fives forward Serge Ibaka (9) during a timeout in the second quarter of the team’s NBA basketball game against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2020, in Los Angeles. Leonard did not play due to injury. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Minnesota Timberwolves forward Juancho Hernangomez (41) dunks during the second quarter of the team’s NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Minnesota Timberwolves center Naz Reid, right, dunks against Los Angeles Clippers guard Paul George (13) during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Minnesota Timberwolves guard Malik Beasley, right, goes up for a shot against Los Angeles Clippers guard Terance Mann (14) and guard Reggie Jackson (1) during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Minnesota Timberwolves center Naz Reid (11) dunks the ball during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 29: Juancho Hernangomez #41 of the Minnesota Timberwolves defends against Daniel Oturu #10 of the LA Clippers during the second half of a game at Staples Center on December 29, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 29: Jarred Vanderbilt #8 of the Minnesota Timberwolves dunks over the defense of Reggie Jackson #1 of the LA Clippers during the second half of a game at Staples Center on December 29, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 29: Mfiondu Kabengele #25 of the LA Clippers battles Juancho Hernangomez #41 of the Minnesota Timberwolves for a loose ball during the second half of a game at Staples Center on December 29, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 29: Amir Coffey #7 of the LA Clippers passes past the defense of Juancho Hernangomez #41 of the Minnesota Timberwolves during the second half of a game at Staples Center on December 29, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 29: Ricky Rubio #9 of the Minnesota Timberwolves dribbles into the defense of Patrick Beverley #21 of the LA Clippers during the first half of a game at Staples Center on December 29, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 29: Jake Layman #10 and D’Angelo Russell #0 of the Minnesota Timberwolves battle for a rebound against Lou Williams #23 of the LA Clippers during the first half of a game at Staples Center on December 29, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 29: D’Angelo Russell #0 of the Minnesota Timberwolves defends against Nicolas Batum #33 of the LA Clippers during the first half of a game at Staples Center on December 29, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 29: D’Angelo Russell #0 of the Minnesota Timberwolves defends against Nicolas Batum #33 of the LA Clippers during the first half of a game at Staples Center on December 29, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 29: D’Angelo Russell #0 of the Minnesota Timberwolves defends against Nicolas Batum #33 of the LA Clippers during the first half of a game at Staples Center on December 29, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 29: Naz Reid #11 of the Minnesota Timberwolves tips off against Serge Ibaka #9 of the LA Clippers during the first half of a game at Staples Center on December 29, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 29: Ed Davis #17 of the Minnesota Timberwolves passes past the defense of Serge Ibaka #9 of the LA Clippers during the first half of a game at Staples Center on December 29, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 29: D’Angelo Russell #0 of the Minnesota Timberwolves shoots a jumpshot during the first half of a game against the LA Clippers at Staples Center on December 29, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • Minnesota Timberwolves forward Jarred Vanderbilt, left, blocks a shot by Los Angeles Clippers forward Mfiondu Kabengele during the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Minnesota Timberwolves guard D’Angelo Russell, left, shoots against Los Angeles Clippers forward Nicolas Batum during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Los Angeles Clippers guard Terance Mann, left, blocks a shot a shot by Minnesota Timberwolves guard Malik Beasley during the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Los Angeles Clippers forward Serge Ibaka (9) celebrates after scoring on an alley-oop against the Minnesota Timberwolves during the third quarter of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Los Angeles Clippers forward Serge Ibaka celebrates a dunk during the third quarter of the team’s NBA basketball game against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Los Angeles Clippers guard Patrick Beverley, left, defends against Minnesota Timberwolves guard Ricky Rubio during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Los Angeles Clippers guard Reggie Jackson (1) shoots next to Minnesota Timberwolves center Ed Davis (17) during the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Minnesota Timberwolves forward Jarred Vanderbilt, left, goes up for a shot against Los Angeles Clippers guard Reggie Jackson during the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Los Angeles Clippers guard Lou Williams, left, on Minnesota Timberwolves forward Jake Layman during the third quarter of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Los Angeles Clippers guards Paul George, left, and Luke Kennard celebrate a point during the third quarter of the team’s NBA basketball game against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

of

Expand

LOS ANGELES — With a lighthearted, music-filled practice on Monday, Clippers coach Tyronn Lue guided his veteran Clippers team out of whatever Bizarro dimension it had stumbled into in its last outing.

They emerged Tuesday looking the part of an NBA team.

An NBA-title-contending team, even.

Seven Clippers scored in double figures as they dominated just about every facet of their 124-101 victory over Minnesota – including those areas where they struggled so badly on Sunday, when they suffered a franchise-worst 51-point loss to Dallas.

“The game wasn’t a show of how we’ve been working as far as practices and our preparation and the things we’ve been doing to get better,” Lue said. “Yesterday we came in for the morale of the team, got a lot of shooting up, a lot of competitive shooting with the music going.”

The message: “‘Just get this behind us, let’s move forward.’”

The Clippers (2-2) advanced in the right direction on Tuesday, despite playing again without star Kawhi Leonard (mouth laceration) and starting forward Marcus Morris Sr. (knee soreness) – and despite coming out of the gates again with more fizzle than the pop requested by Lue, quickly falling behind by nine points.

But Lou Williams’ spicy nine points in five first-quarter minutes off the bench woke up the Clippers, who surged ahead in the second quarter and stayed there, outscoring Minnesota 37-21 en route to a 70-50 halftime advantage.

“Our first unit’s got to get off to better starts, but I thought our bench came in and did a great job,” Lue said. “Lou and Big Zu (Ivica Zubac), Terance Mann, Reggie (Jackson), they all gave us a big lift off the bench, and we needed those guys tonight.”

Williams “was really good at scoring the basketball like he always does,” Lue said of the three-time NBA Sixth Man of the Year, who finished with 20 points and five assists in 20 minutes, going 7 for 11 from the floor and 5 for 6 from the free-throw line.

Zubac played with his native Croatia in his thoughts after a destructive 6.4 magnitude earthquake killed at least seven people south of the capital of Zagreb; the 7-foot center scored 12 points, grabbed four rebounds and blocked three shots.

And Jackson contributed 10 points, four rebounds, four assists, four steals and a block – saying afterward that Lue employed the perfect approach to righting the ship after Sunday’s “atrocious loss.”

“He has an understanding of our team and what we need at the time, so I think guys needed just a little pick-me-up,” Jackson said. “We’re a team that really wants to win, so I don’t think anybody can be harder on us than ourselves as players.

“T-Lue did a great job of freshening it up. We had fun, listened to music, shot together, chatted it up. We knew that wasn’t necessarily who we were; it was an ugly showing, it wasn’t our best version of ourselves, we got to take that L, but we reflected, we had a good day, we moved on from it and we were fortunate enough to get a win today, and we’re gonna have to move on from this win and try to get another one tomorrow.”

The Clippers won’t have much time to relish Tuesday’s outcome, not with Portland (2-1 and fresh off a victory over the Lakers) on deck Wednesday.

But even if they don’t get to revel in the result, the Clippers will try to keep it going after they shot 47 for 88 (53.8 percent) overall against the T’Wolves, including going 16 for 31 from 3-point range. Patrick Beverley and Paul George knocked down four 3-pointers apiece, by themselves equaling the team’s anomalous output Sunday.

And after collectively pulling down only 36 rebounds against Dallas, the Clippers outrebounded the undersized Timberwolves, 46-39. L.A. also finished with 52 points in the paint (compared with just 36 on Sunday), with 56 points off the bench (32 on Sunday), with 32 assists (after a paltry 13), and with plenty of reason to smile beneath their face coverings on the bench.

The T’wolves (2-2) got roughed up for the second straight game at Staples Center. A few hours after the Clippers were bludgeoned on their home court on Sunday, the Lakers put a 36-point licking on Minnesota, which is missing injured star center Karl-Anthony Towns.

In the loss on Tuesday, D’Angelo Russell led Minnesota with 22 points and Malik Beasley contributed 19.

For the Clippers, George finished with a cool 18 points, six rebounds, five assists and two of the Clippers’ 10 blocks. Serge Ibaka had 16 points, eight rebounds and two blocks. Luke Kennard had his best game yet as a Clipper, subbing into the starting lineup for Leonard and finishing with 15 points on 6-for-9 shooting, including making 3 for 4 from 3-point range. Beverley totaled 12 points, all on those 3-pointers.

And, for the second consecutive game, the Clippers youngsters got to show their stuff in garbage time – albeit under much more preferable circumstances.

“It’s still early in the season,” George said, reflecting on the considerable, bizarre swing between Sunday and Tuesday, as well as some of the other early blowouts around the league. “I think it’s a crazy turnaround coming into this season. If you think about it, it’s like Game 4 … this would primarily be like preseason a little bit, with this only being Game 4 under our belt but playing seven games altogether counting preseason. So it’s just different, teams are still working through stuff, still kinks to iron out. No team is in their perfect form or close to it right now.”

Read more about Clippers reassert themselves with rout of Timberwolves This post was shared via Orange County Register’s RSS Feed

Powered by WPeMatico

Whicker: Lakers get into the spirit of this cut-and-dried Christmas

Next time the NBA fills up Christmas Day with basketball, make sure batteries are included on both sides.

The Lakers could have played in their stockings and won this one over Dallas. Their 138-115 victory followed Miami’s 13-point stroll past New Orleans, Milwaukee’s 39-point embarrassment of Golden State, and Brooklyn’s ominous 28-point waltz in Boston.

It’s not unusual to have Christmas games serve as background music instead of actual dramatics, and it wouldn’t be bad, either, if this were a year when the family could gather ‘round. Although the players aspire to get network exposure, they’re as protective of their special days as anybody else. When one team falls behind, it’s easier to punt its best effort to a more secular occasion.

But you can’t blame the NBA for playing as many games as it can whenever it can, seeing what might be awaiting as the winter deepens. On Friday, the Lakers just had fun matching up their new ornaments.

This was the Lakers’ highest-scoring performance since Dec. 8 of last year, when Anthony Davis put 50 points and they throttled Minnesota 142-125. They certainly weren’t offensively challenged in their championship season, but they can score far easier in their half-court offense with Montrezl Harrell and Dennis Schröder in the crew, especially if Kyle Kuzma keeps looking this good.

Harrell, Schröder and Kuzma shot 23 for 35 against the Mavericks, and Harrell’s five offensive rebounds helped the Lakers outscore Dallas 35-0 on second-chance opportunities, which hasn’t happened in the NBA since such records were kept.

Their strong push meant Davis could work fewer than 31 minutes and LeBron James fewer than 32, a rest they earned after a strong first quarter.

“Five or six guys are able to come in and get you 20,” Kuzma said. “We’ve got guys ready to come in and take a game over.”

It might be the closest thing to a shadow starting lineup since 1984, when Pat Riley often began games with Bob McAdoo, Jamaal Wilkes, Michael Cooper and Mitch Kupchak sitting beside him. Here, the Laker reserves scored 55 points and sank 10 of 16 3-point shots.

Nobody actually wants to see the Lakers experiment with this, but if James or Davis had to miss extended time, couldn’t they still finish high in the West? One would assume Jalen Horton-Tucker, among others, would eat up those available minutes, and we’ve barely seen the tip of Wesley Matthews’ game in this 1-1 start.

“I can see, with this team, that I can go into the lane and put pressure on the other team,” said Schröder, who left no doubt that he would be thrilled to sign a contract extension “as long as it’s fair for both sides.

“When I do that, nobody is really helping,” Schroder added. “Everybody else on the court draws a lot of attention.”

The Mavericks (0-2) got 27 points and seven rebounds from Luka Doncic, but they needed more, or at least needed him to do it differently. Coach Frank Vogel had Schröder guard Doncic much of the time and then called in bigger helpmates when the shot clock began dwindling.

Doncic was only 7 for 16 in the first three quarters, and Vogel was pleased the Lakers kept him from digging in at the 3-point line. He went 2 for 4 from deep, and had only four rebounds.

“You try not to overhelp and open up the 3-point game for all their guys,” Vogel said. Add the Mavericks’ 13-for-32 shooting on longballs, and those are winning numbers against the preseason favorite for league Most Valuable Player.

“I guarded Luka quite a bit when I was in Oklahoma City,” Schröder said. “We did a great job of putting him under pressure in the beginning, although we slipped a little bit later.

“I gotta play defense because it gets me into my offense. I think it’s 60, 70 percent of my game. If I play 94 feet with energy, my teammates can see that we’re all into it. That’s what I’ve done my whole career.”

Harrell is also doing the same things that earned him the league’s top Sixth Man award last year, an honor for which Schröder contended as well.

“The only thing to say about him (Harrell) is that he catches everything and he scores everything,” Vogel said, smiling. “We’re trying to give our depth enough reps, and trying to manage LeBron, but it started tonight with LeBron and AD playing at a high level.”

As they know each other better, the Lakers probably will give you lots of nights like this, lots of games that get wrapped up earlier than your gifts probably were.

Read more about Whicker: Lakers get into the spirit of this cut-and-dried Christmas This post was shared via Orange County Register’s RSS Feed. OC Shredding Business

Powered by WPeMatico

Kawhi Leonard leaves bloodied, but Clippers knock down shots and Nuggets for win

  • Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard is helped off the court after suffering a cut in his mouth during the second half of the team’s game against the Nuggets on Friday night in Denver. The laceration, caused by a collision with teammate Serge Ibaka, required eight stitches. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

  • DENVER, COLORADO – DECEMBER 25: Kawhi Leonard #2 of the Los Angeles Clippers leaves the game after being injured against the Denver Nuggets in the fourth quarter at Ball Arena on December 25, 2020 in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

  • Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard is accompanied while leaving the court during the second half of the team’s NBA basketball game against the Denver Nuggets on Friday, Dec. 25, 2020, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

  • DENVER, COLORADO – DECEMBER 25: Kawhi Leonard #2 of the Los Angeles Clippers is injured against the Denver Nuggets in the fourth quarter at Ball Arena on December 25, 2020 in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

  • DENVER, COLORADO – DECEMBER 25: Kawhi Leonard #2 of the Los Angeles Clippers is attended to after being injured against the Denver Nuggets in the fourth quarter at Ball Arena on December 25, 2020 in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

  • Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard lies on the court after suffering an injury during the second half of the team’s NBA basketball game against the Denver Nuggets on Friday, Dec. 25, 2020, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

  • DENVER, COLORADO – DECEMBER 25: Jamal Murray #27 of the Denver Nuggets drives against Nicolas Batum #33 of the Los Angeles Clippers in the first quarter at Ball Arena on December 25, 2020 in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

  • DENVER, COLORADO – DECEMBER 25: Patrick Beverley #21 of the Los Angeles Clippers controls a loose ball against the Denver Nuggets in the first quarter at Ball Arena on December 25, 2020 in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

  • DENVER, COLORADO – DECEMBER 25: Nikola Jokic #15 of the Denver Nuggets is guarded by Serge Ibaka #9 of the Los Angeles Clippers in the first quarter at Ball Arena on December 25, 2020 in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

  • DENVER, COLORADO – DECEMBER 25: Nikola Jokic #15 of the Denver Nuggets puts in a basket against the Los Angeles Clippers in the first quarter at Ball Arena on December 25, 2020 in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

  • DENVER, COLORADO – DECEMBER 25: Head coach Tyronn Lue of the Los Angeles Clippers shouts instructions to his team against the Denver Nuggets in the third quarter at Ball Arena on December 25, 2020 in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

  • Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard, left, drives to the basket past Denver Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. during the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Dec. 25, 2020, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

  • DENVER, COLORADO – DECEMBER 25: Paul George #13 of the Los Angeles Clippers drives against Jamal Murray #27 of the Denver Nuggets in the third quarter at Ball Arena on December 25, 2020 in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

  • DENVER, COLORADO – DECEMBER 25: Nikola Jokic #15 of the Denver Nuggets is guarded by Patrick Patterson #54 of the Los Angeles Clippers in the first quarter at Ball Arena on December 25, 2020 in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

  • DENVER, COLORADO – DECEMBER 25: Paul George #13 of the Los Angeles Clippers drives against Jamal Murray #27 of the Denver Nuggets in the third quarter at Ball Arena on December 25, 2020 in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

  • DENVER, COLORADO – DECEMBER 25: Jamal Murray #27of the Denver Nuggets takes the ball to the basket against Serge Ibaka #9 of the Los Angeles Clippers in the second quarter at Ball Arena on December 25, 2020 in Denver, Colorado. at Ball Arena on December 25, 2020 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

  • DENVER, COLORADO – DECEMBER 25: Lou Williams #23 of the Los Angeles Clippers brings the ball down the court against the Denver Nuggets in the third quarter at Ball Arena on December 25, 2020 in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

  • DENVER, COLORADO – DECEMBER 25: Isaiah Hartenstein #25 of the Denver Nuggets drives against Ivica Zubac #40 of the Los Angeles Clippers in the second quarter at Ball Arena on December 25, 2020 in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

  • Los Angeles Clippers forward Serge Ibaka shoots over Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Dec. 25, 2020, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

  • Los Angeles Clippers forward Serge Ibaka pressures Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Dec. 25, 2020, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

  • DENVER, COLORADO – DECEMBER 25: Paul George #13 of the Los Angeles Clippers puts up a shot over Jamal Murray #27 of the Denver Nuggets in the fourth quarter at Ball Arena on December 25, 2020 in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

  • Denver Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. dunks against the Los Angeles Clippers during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Dec. 25, 2020, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

  • DENVER, COLORADO – DECEMBER 25: Paul George #13 of the Los Angeles Clippers drives against the Denver Nuggets in the fourth quarter at Ball Arena on December 25, 2020 in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

  • Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray, right, drives as Los Angeles Clippers forward Nicolas Batum defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Dec. 25, 2020, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

  • Los Angeles Clippers forward Nicolas Batum, right, looks to pass the ball as Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Dec. 25, 2020, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

  • DENVER, COLORADO – DECEMBER 25: Lou Williams #23 of the Los Angeles Clippers brings the ball down the court against the Denver Nuggets in the fourth quarter at Ball Arena on December 25, 2020 in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

  • Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic, back, passes the ball as Los Angeles Clippers forward Serge Ibaka and guard Patrick Beverley, right, defend during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Dec. 25, 2020, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

  • DENVER, COLORADO – DECEMBER 25: Reggie Jackson #1 of the Los Angeles Clippers drives against Monte Morris #11 of the Denver Nuggets in the fourth quarter at Ball Arena on December 25, 2020 in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

  • Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard passes the ball as Denver Nuggets guard Gary Harris, left, and forward Paul Millsap defend during the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Dec. 25, 2020, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

  • Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic drives for a basket against the Los Angeles Clippers during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Dec. 25, 2020, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

  • Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray, left, pressures Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Dec. 25, 2020, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

  • Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray, right, looks to pass the ball as Los Angeles Clippers center Ivica Zubac defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Dec. 25, 2020, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

  • Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray, center, passes the ball to center Isaiah Hartenstein, right, as Los Angeles Clippers guard Reggie Jackson defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Dec. 25, 2020, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

  • Los Angeles Clippers guard Terance Mann, right, tries to control the ball next to Denver Nuggets guard Markus Howard during the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Dec. 25, 2020, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

  • Los Angeles Clippers guard Paul George shoots as Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Dec. 25, 2020, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

  • Denver Nuggets coach Michael Malone argues for a call during the second half of the team’s NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday, Dec. 25, 2020, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

  • Denver Nuggets center Isaiah Hartenstein, center, and Los Angeles Clippers center Ivica Zubac, left, and guard Paul George wait for a rebound during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Dec. 25, 2020, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

  • Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard, left, is defended by Denver Nuggets guards Jamal Murray, center, and PJ Dozier during the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Dec. 25, 2020, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

  • Denver Nuggets forward Will Barton, left, tries to steal the ball from Los Angeles Clippers forward Patrick Patterson during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Dec. 25, 2020, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

  • Denver Nuggets forward Will Barton, center, drives to the basket between Los Angeles Clippers guards Lou Williams, left, and Terance Mann during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Dec. 25, 2020, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

  • Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard, center, drives between Denver Nuggets forward Paul Millsap, left, and center Nikola Jokic during the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Dec. 25, 2020, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

  • Denver Nuggets forward Will Barton, left, tries to block a pass by Los Angeles Clippers forward Patrick Patterson during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Dec. 25, 2020, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

  • Los Angeles Clippers forward Serge Ibaka, right, fouls Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Dec. 25, 2020, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

  • Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray passes the ball as Los Angeles Clippers guard Patrick Beverley defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Dec. 25, 2020, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

  • DENVER, COLORADO – DECEMBER 25: Head coach Tyronn Lue of the Los Angeles Clippers shouts instructions to his team against the Denver Nuggets in the third quarter at Ball Arena on December 25, 2020 in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

  • Los Angeles Clippers guard Paul George looks to pass the ball as Denver Nuggets forward Will Barton defends in the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Dec. 25, 2020, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

of

Expand

Playing the fifth and final game on the NBA’s prestigious holiday slate, Tyronn Lue’s team faced down the ghosts of Clippers-Nuggets games past and kept alive the day’s streak of double-digit victories.

The Clippers fought off Denver’s late-game surge – and did it for the final six minutes without Kawhi Leonard to help – for a 121-108 victory on Friday night at Ball Arena in Denver.

It was a feel-good Christmas story for the Clippers – clouded, however, by Leonard’s bloodied departure with 6:07 left.

The four-time All-Star left the court and headed to the locker room bleeding heavily from his mouth, done for the night after being elbowed violently by his friend Serge Ibaka. The Clippers’ new starting center accidentally hit Leonard on a rebound attempt.


Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard lies on the court after suffering a jaw injury during the second half against the Denver Nuggets on Friday, Dec. 25, 2020, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

The Clippers reported Leonard had suffered a mouth laceration requiring eight stitches.

“When I went closer to him, I saw his lips, so I didn’t look good at all,” Nicolas Batum said. “You don’t want a player, one of our teammates – even like an opposite guy – any players to go down like that, with blood all over him and everywhere on the floor.”

That said, Batum noted he’s optimistic his new teammate will be OK. “I just saw him in the locker room, he was OK. Kind of scary at the moment.”

Otherwise, these Clippers escaped a late-game assault by Denver unscathed – and moreover, they banked another big win and left the court with another early example of their ability to stay composed under duress.

“There’s still a lot of getting to know each other,” said Paul George, who led the Clippers with 23 points and nine assists. “But that all comes with us practicing and playing games. We’re a ways away, but you guys can see, we’re getting better and we’re a different team than we were last year.”

There’s significance to fending off the Nuggets, in part, if it helps vanquish the specter of the Orlando bubble, in which a series of blown double-digit, second-half leads fed L.A.’s collapse in the Western Conference semifinals in September.

It might be more important because it signals the Clippers – now 2-0 – are developing a healthy stubborn streak under Lue.

“Just being resilient,” Lue said. “Denver’s a great team. They went to the Western Conference finals last year and they have some really good players so they’re going to make a run, especially at home. I thought we just kept our composure.”

Lue soothed the Clippers through the Lakers’ charge from behind in the season opener on Tuesday. On Friday, his Clippers again staved off another talented team’s surge, when the Nuggets whittled what had been a 24-point lead to as little as 11 points, though they got no closer.

With Leonard being treated away from the action, Lou Williams, Patrick Beverley, George and Ibaka took turns hitting shots to keep the Nuggets from eating any further into the lead.

“Nothing was said, just, you know, ‘Next man up,’” Lue said. “We know Kawhi is a great player, but we got to have the mindset that if he goes down everybody has to be able to step up, and I thought Serge, I thought Lou, Pat Beverley made a big shots – of course, PG.

“We was able to kind of quiet the storm by just executing what we were trying to execute, and we made some big plays down the stretch.”

Employing Lue’s philosophy of scoring by paint or by distance helped the Clippers establish their advantage. They hit the host Nuggets (0-2) with a barrage from 3-point range, making 19 of 38 attempts from deep – including 12 of 23 in the first half, after which the Clippers led 72-55.

In the end, nine Clippers connected from long range – with George hitting five 3-pointers, giving him 10 through the first two games on 17 attempts.

George continued his overall inspired early-season effort, following his efficient 33-point season debut. He went 8 for 14 from the field, making 21 for 32 this young season.

He had help from his friends, including Leonard (21 points), Ibaka (15), Batum (13 and 10 rebounds), and Ivica Zubac (12 off the bench).

Nikola Jokic led Denver with 24 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds. Jamal Murray added 23 points, 13 coming in the fourth quarter.

Read more about Kawhi Leonard leaves bloodied, but Clippers knock down shots and Nuggets for win This post was shared via Orange County Register’s RSS Feed. OC Shredding Business

Powered by WPeMatico

Clippers knock down shots and Nuggets for Christmas Day win

Playing the fifth and final game on the NBA’s prestigious holiday slate, Tyronn Lue’s team faced down the ghosts of Clippers-Nuggets games past and kept alive the day’s streak of double-digit victories.

The Clippers fought off Denver’s late-game surge – and did it for the final six minutes without Kawhi Leonard to help – for a 121-108 victory Friday at Ball Arena in Denver.

It was a feel-good Christmas story for the Clippers – clouded, however, by Leonard’s bloodied departure with 6:07 left.

The four-time All-Star left the court and headed to the locker room bleeding heavily from his mouth, done for the night after being elbowed violently by his friend Serge Ibaka. The Clippers’ new starting center accidentally hit Leonard on a rebound attempt.


Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard lies on the court after suffering a jaw injury during the second half against the Denver Nuggets on Friday, Dec. 25, 2020, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

The Clippers reported Leonard had suffered a mouth laceration requiring eight stitches.

“When I went closer to him, I saw his lips, so I didn’t look good at all,” Nicolas Batum said. “You don’t want a player, one of our teammates – even like an opposite guy – any players to go down like that, with blood all over him and everywhere on the floor.”

That said, Batum noted he’s optimistic his new teammate will be OK. “I just saw him in the locker room, he was OK. Kind of scary at the moment.”

Otherwise, these Clippers escaped a late-game assault by Denver unscathed – and moreover, they banked another big win and went away with another early example of their ability to stay composed under duress.

“There’s still a lot of getting to know each other,” said Paul George, who led the Clippers with 23 points and nine assists. “But that all comes with us practicing and playing games. We’re a ways away, but you guys can see, we’re getting better and we’re a different team than we were last year.”

There’s significance to fending off the Nuggets, in part, if it helps vanquish the specter of the bubble, in which a series of blown leads fed L.A.’s collapse in the Western Conference semifinals in September.

It might be more important because it signals the Clippers – now 2-0 – are developing a healthy stubborn streak under Lue.

“Just being resilient,” Lue said. “Denver’s a great team. They went to the Western Conference Finals last year and they have some really good players so they’re going to make a run, especially at home. I thought we just kept our composure.”

Lue soothed the Clippers through the Lakers’ charge from behind in the season opener Tuesday. On Friday, his Clippers again staved off another talented team’s surge, when the Nuggets whittled what had been a 24-point lead to as little as 11 points, though they got no closer.

With Leonard being treated away from the action, Lou Williams, Patrick Beverley, George and Ibaka took turns hitting shots to keep the Nuggets from eating any further into the lead.

“Nothing was said, just, you know, ‘Next man up,’” Lue said. “We know Kawhi is a great player, but we got to have the mindset that if he goes down everybody has to be able to step up, and I thought Serge, I thought Lou, Pat Beverley made a big shots – of course, PG.

“We was able to kind of quiet the storm by just executing what we were trying to execute, and we made some big plays down the stretch.”

Employing Lue’s philosophy of scoring by paint or by distance helped the Clippers establish their advantage. They hit the host Nuggets (0-2) with a barrage from 3-point range, making 19 of 38 attempts from deep – including 12 of 23 in the first half, after which the Clippers led 72-55.

In the end, nine Clippers connected from long range – with George hitting five 3s, giving him 10 through tof he first two games on 17 attempts.

George continued his overall inspired early-season effort, following his efficient 33-point season debut. He went 8 for 14 from the field, making 21 for 32 this young season.

He had help from his friends, including Leonard (21 points), Ibaka (15), Batum (13 and 10 rebounds), and Ivica Zubac (12 off the bench).

Nikola Jokic led Denver with 24 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds.

Read more about Clippers knock down shots and Nuggets for Christmas Day win This post was shared via Orange County Register’s RSS Feed

Powered by WPeMatico

Whicker: Schröder, Harrell make Lakers’ fitful opener more hopeful

For a long time, it appeared the Clippers and Lakers should return to The Bubble, preferably with a tight wrap.

Seventy-one days between confetti and a new tipoff clearly weren’t enough for the Lakers to re-ignite and lift off, particularly with so many new actors. The Clippers, who seemed to think the lack of team chemistry explained their face-plant in the playoffs against Denver, tried to incorporate three new rotation players. They were imperfect strangers, too.

So a flat opening night, with no fans inside Staples Center, came out in the Clippers’ favor, 116-109. But for the holdover Lakers, the game will fade long before the pregame ring ceremony will. The families of the players and coaches appeared on the video board, to everyone’s surprise, to remotely present the rings, and obviously, the Lakers themselves were still on that championship high from Oct. 11.

And maybe their hands were a little disfigured from the pressure of trying on a ring the size of a bejeweled bell pepper.

It’s historically difficult to transform oneself into competitive mode after something like that. Perhaps it would be better, whenever the virus moves on, to have the ring ceremony the night before the opener, in front of the season-ticket holders, in conjunction with the premiere of the previous season’s highlight film and maybe with a low-impact skills competition thrown in.

Either way, the Lakers are hoping they’re good enough to win this glorified handicap match, to overcome a halting start to the regular season. Coach Frank Vogel indicated what his vision is. He played LeBron James 12:32 in the second half and he played Anthony Davis 13:56. Neither All-Star was on the floor when the Clippers staged the finishing touch.

Instead, Dennis Schröder played 13:36 in that half and Montrezl Harrell 17:53. Schroder played for Oklahoma City last year, which was eliminated on Sept. 2. Harrell’s Clippers were relieved of their duties on Sept. 15.

They were the best Lakers, all told. Schröder didn’t shoot well but had 14 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists, and looked justified in campaigning to start at point guard. He also has developed the same pick-and-roll rhythm with Harrell that Lou Williams once had. Harrell was beastly, going 6 for 7, scoring 17 and grabbing 10 boards.

“It’s a balancing act,” Vogel said. “Some of the younger guys and the guys who weren’t with us all the way last year can carry a bigger load while the other guys get their legs under them. Dennis definitely can carry that load. He’s a dynamic player, he got into the lane and showed his ability to score. He’s a winning player and Trez was a junkyard dog out there.”

Kyle Kuzma, who received a new contract extension while he faces a year-long battle for his accustomed minutes, scored 15 off the bench. Marc Gasol, Markieff Morris and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had little impact. This will change game to game, but Schröder and Harrell will be more prominent Lakers than any of the players they lost during their 71-day “summer.”

“We’ve been together 10 days now,” Schröder said. “We’re still trying to find ourselves. We’re trying to figure out what everybody likes.”

“We’re fairly new,” Harrell said. “We’re all learning new defensive coverages. We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us, but we know we have the right guys to do it.”

Those who are a little skittish about the Lakers’ defense at the rim, without Dwight Howard and Javale McGee, were not calmed by the Clippers’ paint parade in the first half. Once the Lakers stopped that, they were subjected to a 26-point second half by Paul George. If he does that again on Christmas night in Denver, we can begin calling him Poinsettia P.

George played 35:46 and Kawhi Leonard played 34:01, and they took 44 of the Clippers’ 93 shots. The Clippers looked bigger with Nicolas Batum and Serge Ibaka in the lineup, and Ivica Zubac gives their second unit an imposing look.

They also had a string of 12 consecutive empty possessions in that brutal second quarter, and the Lakers cut a 20-point deficit to 11. The lead evaporated completely in the third quarter, but George stood guard.

The Dallas Mavericks come to play the Lakers on Christmas Day, and they are likely to be the more thrilled and rested team. But the Lakers know basketball isn’t like high finance or academia. Doing your best means less vacation in this game. The odds are that they’ll catch up to the rest of the league as soon as sleep catches up with them.


The Lakers’ Montrezl Harrell lays the ball in the basket during their season opener against the Clippers on Tuesday night at Staples Center. Harrell was beastly in the Lakers’ 116-109 loss, going 6 for 7 from the field, scoring 17 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

Read more about Whicker: Schröder, Harrell make Lakers’ fitful opener more hopeful This post was shared via Orange County Register’s RSS Feed

Powered by WPeMatico

Tyronn Lue is 1-0 as Clippers head coach

LOS ANGELES — Tyronn Lue took his position on the sideline in official capacity as a head coach for the first time since he was excused from the job in Cleveland in six games into the 2018-19 season.

That scene at Staples Center might have played out a season earlier, of course: In May of 2019, Lue was considered the leading candidate to take the helm with the Lakers and reunite with LeBron James, with whom he’d reached three consecutive NBA Finals and won a title with the Cavaliers.

But talks between Lue and the Lakers reportedly unraveled over contract terms. Instead, he spent last season at Doc Rivers’ elbow on the Clippers’ bench, getting acquainted with Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and other members of a team that finished second in the Western Conference and then unraveled in the bubble – a group he’d be leading a couple of short months later.

As Lue learned the Clippers organization, James and the Lakers – under the direction of head coach Frank Vogel – earned the conference’s top seed and went on to outlast everyone in the bubble. They claimed the franchise’s 17th NBA title in trying circumstances, cut off from the world in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, an achievement they celebrated Tuesday with a ring ceremony before they took the court to face the Clippers.

Lue’s job now: For starters, bring about the first championship in franchise history. And, in the nearer term, fix what ailed the Clippers last season, institute accountability and improve the team’s on-court structure.

He took a first step in the right direction Tuesday with a 116-109 victory, before which he promised his charges would come out ready to forge ahead.

“We’re very hungry,” he said. “We’re very excited to get back on the floor. We still know it’s a process and that we still got a lot of work ahead of us right now, offensively and defensively, but we expect that between the lines it’s just about competing. It’s about heart. It’s about competing. And that’s what we’re willing to do tonight.”

For his part, Lue said he was thrilled to have another shot at head coaching – an opportunity made possible by Rivers’ ouster a couple weeks after the Clippers’ collapse in the second round of the Western Conference playoffs, and made more interesting by the state of the world.

“I’m very excited, very blessed to be able to start the season,” Lue told reporters in and outside of Staples Center via a coronavirus-necessitated Zoom video conference that was delayed several minutes because of audio difficulties.

“With what’s going on the world right now with the pandemic, it’s unfortunate times and we all got to get through it together,” Lue said. “That being said, I’m very excited to get back on the sideline close to the game I love. The game has given me everything I have in my life, as well my family, so I’m excited to get back out there and make another run at it.”

On the sideline, Lue and his staff – a who’s who collection, all clad in all black, of coaching talent that includes former head coaches Kenny Atkinson and Larry Drew, as well as accomplished veteran assistants Dan Craig and Roy Rogers – saw their team run recently instituted plays to perfection early on in Tuesday’s game, opening a 22-point lead.

But then they saw the Clippers exhibit the same propensity to let leads dwindle that haunted them in the bubble, coughing up almost all of it by halftime, when the Clippers led only 56-54.

But Lue didn’t panic, and so none of the Clippers did, shoring up things in a second half when they outscored the Lakers, 60-55, and committed just four turnovers.

“We’re playing a great team, with LeBron James and Anthony Davis on the other side of the basketball – they’re gonna make a run at some point,” Lue said. “Just gotta be able to withstand it. … At halftime, I said, ‘Hey, listen. We did a great job, we had a good lead, they came back, they made a run, that’s part of the game.’ All they had to do was take care of the basketball and we’d be in good shape.”

Lue is making it a point to inspire more ball movement offensively, which resulted in some aesthetically pleasing basketball on Tuesday.

“I felt the movement, know what I mean? We got to a couple isolations when we needed to, but for the most part, everyone’s trying to play the right way,” said Leonard, who finished the first half 4 for 13 but warmed up in the third quarter, going 4 for 7 and scoring nine points. “When you see that on the floor, the ball’s hoppin’, guys are getting shots – getting the shots that they want, it’s great.”

He’s also spoken often during the abbreviated training camp of more effectively getting Leonard and George to the spots where they can do the most damage – and the Clippers made good on his promise in the second half Tuesday.

George certainly found his way to his sweet spots. He was efficient but quiet until the third quarter, and then came alive with a tide-turning display: The Palmdale native made all six shots he took and scored 15 of his game-high 33 points in the period, as the Clippers succeeded in putting enough distance between them and the defending champions, going into the fourth quarter ahead, 89-78.

“I love T-Lue,” George said. “He allowed me to play, make mistakes, and continue to play.”

Lue also incorporated some zone and played Ivica Zubac 26 minutes, more than the effective young center played in all but one regular-season game last season.

And, at the end of the night, Lue was a winner in his first game as the Clippers head coach, a title that Tuesday had a nice ring to it.

“Any time you win is great, especially in this league with all the tough teams there is,” Lue said. “But to come out, Game 1, my first time coaching this team, and playing against a great team like the Lakers and getting a win, that’s a great feeling.”

Read more about Tyronn Lue is 1-0 as Clippers head coach This post was shared via Orange County Register’s RSS Feed

Powered by WPeMatico