The bench contributed 56 points as the Los Angeles Clippers downed the Los Angeles Lakers 105-93 Friday night at STAPLES Center. Jamal Crawford (15), Austin Rivers (17) and Lance Stephenson (16) led the Clips to their ninth-straight win over the lowly Lakers (9-40).
There wasn't a ton of flow to the first quarter. The teams combined to attempt 19 free throws, with the Lakers making eight and the Clips converting six. Jordan Clarkson was extremely aggressive offensively, contributing nine points on 3-for-4 shooting from the floor. Chris Paul, as usual, had the LAC offense humming along just fine. He had a hand in each of the first seven Clipper buckets, with five assists and a pair of midrange jumpers. Wesley Johnson, who drew the start in place of the resting Paul Pierce, scored eight quick points all around the rim. Things took a turn for the worse for the Clips when DeAndre Jordan picked up his second foul at the 6:35 mark with the team up 16-9. From there, the Lakers went on a 20-12 run to close the frame.
With Pierce out, Lance Stephenson actually got some minutes, and, boy, did he make the most of them. He was actually afforded the chance to play as a ball-handler and made some good things happen. Lance finished his first nine-minute stint with nine points, three boards, a block and an assist. He drilled a three-pointer and the lone turnover came on a bounce pass to Jordan off the pick-and-roll that would've been glorious had it connected. Stephenson's energy combined with Jordan's return following the early foul trouble helped the Clippers reclaim control of the game. The quality of looks LAL was getting noticeably decreased with the Clipper big man back in there commanding the paint. The Lakers had 12 points in the paint with Jordan on the bench compared to just four when he was in the game in the first half.
The Clips' energy dwindled a bit once Stephenson left the game with LAC up by eight. The Lakers went on a little spurt to close the gap to just two before four straight points from Paul helped the Clippers to a 54-49 halftime advantage. Noted podcast enthusiast J.J. Redick was a non-factor over the first 24, scoring just four points on 1-for-4 shooting from the floor. The Lakers were doing a decent job of hedging whenever he'd catch the ball, which forced him into some unclean looks.
Redick finally connected on a three-ball at the nine-minute mark of the third, but he and the rest of the team went ice-cold after that. The Clippers missed their next six shots (Redick missed four of them and finished the game just 2-of-10) as the Lakers took advantage and snuck back in front. LAC was getting decent enough looks, they just weren't falling. J.J. missed several wide-open chances he'd likely drill 99 times out of 100. He was just out-of-sorts in this one. The Clipper bricklaying was allowing the Lakers to get out and run, resulting in some easy buckets. Even the Lakers can make layups...sometimes, anyway.
Fortunately, the Clippers were able to restore order following a timeout thanks in large part to active defending. A CP-for-3 and back-to-back-to-back easy buckets for Austin Rivers on the heels of Laker turnovers gave the home team a 70-63 advantage. The teams would trade buckets (including a Lance Stephenson turnaround!) for the rest of the period, and LAC held a 78-71 lead going into the final 12 minutes.
Rivers and Stephenson kept the good times rolling early in the final quarter after a Lance triple gave LAC their biggest lead of the night at 90-76. Then, Lance decided to single-handedly drop the hammer on the entire Lakers franchise:
Stephenson then forced a turnover a couple of Laker possessions later, paving the way for more fun (via @World_Wide_Wob):
Well, that escalated quickly. The consecutive jams put the Clippers back up 14 and they never looked back. Another three-pointer from Paul right at the two minute warning put the game on ice.
This wasn't the Clippers' best overall game by any means, but it was an immense positive to see that kind of production from the bench group for the second game in a row. Stephenson probably won't play like that on a nightly basis (he only missed one shot), but his liveliness gave the team a much-needed boost. His upside is too good for him to be rotting on the bench the way he has been for the better part of two months, so here's hoping he's gotten back into the good graces of the head coach with this game. He's an obvious difference-maker and could be an incredibly valuable asset in the latter stages of the season. Yes, he'll make some place that make you want to put your head through the wall, but he can also be a good facilitator for a second unit that gets stagnant often. Lance finished with 16 points (6-for-7 from the field, 2-for-2 from deep), five rebounds, two assists, a block and a steal. And that monstrous posterization of Julius Randle.
Austin Rivers also deserves plaudits for this game, as he chimed-in with 17 points on 8-of-14 shooting from the floor. He also played his standard solid defense, and even fell down a couple of times (again!). Rivers and Stephenson combined to outscore the Lakers bench by themselves (33-25), and Jamal Crawford scored 15 and hit some timely buckets, as well. It was the second straight game that the Clips were able to force tons of turnovers and capitalize on those chances. LAL coughed it up 18 times, leading to 28 Clipper points. LAC, meanwhile, turned it over just eight times in the ballgame.
Paul finished with a (relatively quiet) 27 points to go along with seven assists, while Jordan scored six points while grabbing 17 boards. The Lakers were led by Julius Randle's strong game (23 points, 14 rebounds), but didn't have enough firepower to ultimately keep up with LAC. Kobe Bryant sat out after playing 25 minutes Thursday night.
The Clippers' (31-16) next game will be a national TV (ABC) matinee showdown Sunday afternoon at STAPLES against Jimmy Butler and the Chicago Bulls.