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Clippers’ Free Throw Woes Prove Costly in 123-120 OT Loss to Lakers

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The Clippers fought hard, but too many missed opportunities resulted in a tough loss on Thursday night.

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Los Angeles Clippers Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Thanks to brutal free throw shooting and general lapses offensively, the Clippers lost to the Lakers by the score of 123-120 on Thursday night at Staples Center.

The Clippers didn’t play particularly well for long stretches in this one, yet it was still a game that could have easily been won. LAC easily won the turnover battle 15-8 and hit 14 threes to the Lakers’ 11. The game was won for the Lakers at the stripe, which is something that hasn’t been said much this season.

The Lakers hit 28 of their 35 attempts (80%) from the charity stripe. It was an uncharacteristically accurate night from LAL, who ranks dead-last in foul shooting (68.7%) as a team on the season. The Clippers, who rank sixth in the league in free throw shooting (79.7%) on the season, converted just 14 of their 26 looks (53.8%). Montrezl Harrell went 1-5 and Lou Williams went 2-5. It was weird.

The Clips battled back from a 14-point fourth quarter deficit to force overtime, but the foul shooting woes continued to plague them all night long.

Lou led the way for LAC with 24 points off the bench following a slow start, while Patrick Beverley chimed in with 17 points, eight rebounds, four assists, two steals and a block in another well-rounded effort. The Clippers also got some positive fourth quarter minutes out of Jerome Robinson, while Shai Gilgeous-Alexander once again didn’t touch the floor in the game’s latter stages. Boban Marjanovic provided some late heroics, but it wasn’t enough.

LeBron James returned for the Lakers after missing about a month with his groin injury. James was clearly rusty, yet he still managed to finish with 24 points, 14 rebounds and nine assists in 40 minutes of work. Lance Stephenson was a thorn in the Clippers’ side all night. Lance scored 20 points of his own and hit five of his eight looks from long range.

The loss narrowed the Clippers’ lead over the Lakers to just one game for the eighth and final playoff spot in the conference. These two teams will play twice more before the regular season is out. From here, the Clippers will hit the road for six, starting with a showdown against Blake Griffin and the Pistons in Detroit on Saturday night.

First Quarter

The Clippers started out with pretty good energy in this one, with Patrick Beverley and Avery Bradley combining to hit four threes within the first five minutes of the game. Seven of their first 12 shots came from distance, and the Lakers were noticeably sagging off of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, challenging him to shoot. He didn’t make them pay early on, as he missed each of his first three looks.

Marcin Gortat also picked up two early fouls, so the Clippers resorted to a smaller lineup with the Lakers rolling with Ivica Zubac in the middle. The Lakers tried establishing Zubac in the post against Montrezl Harrell and Mike Scott, but he fortunately wasn’t able to inflict much damage.

The game lacked a whole lot of rhythm early on. The Clippers struggled to generate much of anything offensively in the half court, while the Lakers’ iso-ball actually worked toward the end of the period. Brandon Ingram contributed 9 points for the visitors in the first 12 minutes, while JaVale McGee supplied some energy off the bench.

The fact that the Clippers trailed 32-26 at the end of a quarter without LeBron James having done much of anything wasn’t a great sign, either. James scored a couple of points with a couple of rebounds in eight largely forgettable minutes before the Lakers enjoyed a bit more success with him on the bench to close the frame.

Second Quarter

The Clips started the second with four reserves (Harrell, Scott, Jerome Robinson, Lou Williams) and SGA out there. Mike Scott bagged his second triple in three attempts early in the period. It was the seventh Clipper make from distance early on compared to just two for the Lakers, which was effectively keeping LAC in the game.

Of course, right after that, the Clippers decided to stop defending the arc. Lance Stephenson and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope teamed up to drill three straight threes (KCP’s were completely uncontested) to extend the Lakers’ lead back to six. KCP’s second make was the Lakers’ fifth conversion in seven attempts early on, and LAL was outshooting LAC 57.7% to 41.7% from the field at that point.

The Clippers put together a nice little flurry after that, which coincided with Patrick Beverley’s return to the floor. The Lakers’ shooting dipped considerably to close out the quarter thanks to a combination of renewed focus from the Clips’ defense and the Lakers flat-out missing shots.

The Clips got decent offensive contributions from everyone despite Tobias Harris and Lou Williams combining to shoot just 6-15 in the first half. The reason the Clippers were able to survive 41% shooting from the floor in the first half was because so many of their looks came from beyond. 23 of their 51 first half looks came from long distance, while the Lakers attempted just 10 such shots in the game’s first 24 minutes.

LAC was also frustratingly just 2-8 from the foul line in the first half, while the Lakers connected on 9 of their 11 freebies. The Lakers led 54-53 at the break in a game the Clippers could have easily been leading.

Third Quarter

The Lakers got off to a 13-8 start after the break as the Clippers struggled to generate offense with the starting group on the court. Shai had some nice attacking drives, but LAC looked largely rudderless with Lou and Harrell on the bench and Harris struggling to establish himself.

Avery Bradley, who was questionable for most of the day with a sore knee, was forced to leave the game about halfway through the third after suffering a quad injury. Fortunately, he was able to come back.

The Clips’ offensive drought continued though a couple of misses from Harrell before a Brandon Ingram dunk extended the Lakers’ lead to 10 at 75-65, prompting a Doc Rivers timeout.

The Clippers mustered just 22 points in the third, and it felt like less. The Lakers weren’t even really playing stellar defense, the Clips were just taking and missing low percentage shots. The Lakers had 12 turnovers to the Clippers’ six at the end of three quarters, and the Clippers had attempted 15 more shots than their intracity rivals after 36 minutes. However, the Lakers had 30 makes to the Clippers’ 29 at that point. It was ugly, and the Lakers led 87-75 heading into the fourth.

Fourth Quarter

The Clippers kicked off the fourth by committing three fouls in the first minute, but then things started to turn. Jerome Robinson had a few nice moments, including an acrobatic up-and-under layup followed by a rejection on Rajon Rondo at the other end. Beverley connected on his fifth three of the night and a Montrezl Harrell jam capped a 7-0 run to close the gap.

However, Montrezl picked up a T on the dunk, which effectively halted the momentum. A subsequent dubious foul call against Harrell on JaVale McGee put the Clippers over the limit, which meant the Lakers would be shooting for the last 8:37 of the game. McGee’s free throw put the Lakers back up nine.

Harrell picked up foul No. 5 a few minutes later, which forced Doc to counter by unleashing the Boban with a seven-point Laker lead. Boban immediately made his presence felt, though, as he collected an offensive rebound off a Lou Williams missed free throw and converted the three-point play. That five-point possession closed the deficit to two.

Lance Stephenson’s revenge game continued as he hit two more threes on subsequent possessions to give the Lakers a bit more breathing room. The GOATs (LeBron and Boban) traded buckets on subsequent possessions, though, and Luke Walton called for time with a two-point lead and just under five minutes left.

Things started to slip away for the Clippers before Lou and Boban bagged a couple of late buckets to close the deficit to three. LeBron and Rondo missed back-to-back threes on the next couple of possessions before Harris finally hit a three of his own to tie things up with 35 seconds to play.

Both teams squandered their last couple of possessions, so...overtime!

Overtime

The Lakers got the first couple of buckets of the OT session before Lou Williams halved the lead with just over two minutes to go. McGee then hilariously and inexplicably missed a dunk before Lou tied the game again at the other end.

LeBron scored, the Clippers turned it over and then Stephenson was gifted an and-one layup despite elbowing Boban right in the face, a turn of events that extended the Lakers’ lead back to five with just 45 seconds to go. Bradley and Lou missed chances on the other end, and that was that for the Clippers.