December 9, 2017, 11:28 pm
The Lakers’ starters were slightly outplayed by the Hornets leading to a slight 76-75 edge at the end of three quarters. However, the Lakers’ bench took over in the final period to carry Los Angeles to a 110-99 victory on the road.
“Jordan Clarkson is having a fantastic year and should be considered for the 6th man of the year award.” — as tweeted by Magic Johnson after Clarkson led the Lakers to a road win on Saturday. It is very hard to disagree with Magic’s assessment as Clarkson was indeed the best player on the court in the second half. So much so that Lakers’ rookie Lonzo Ball did not see the court in the final frame even though he was playing a decent game — Clarkson was just that good finishing with 22 points, six assists, five rebounds, one steal and a plus-13 rating. He scored 14 fourth quarter points and led the team on a 23-6 run that was the deciding factor in the contest. Clarkson, a player often lamented for his lack of court vision and penchants for over dribbling, was everything but that, playing wonderful team basketball and finding his teammates multiple times for easy baskets.
Joining Clarkson in the dominant second unit was rookie Kyle Kuzma who was coming off of his worst game as a professional producing only three points, two rebounds and one assist on 1-of-7 shooting. He bounced back with style in this game with 12 points, 14 rebounds, two assists, one block and a team leading plus-21 rating on 6-of-11 from the floor. Kuzma made key momentum plays including a pass leading to a much needed 3-pointer at the end of the first half, a key block shot and being the recipient on multiple great passes by Clarkson leading to strong finishes at the end of the game. His efforts were rewarded as coach Luke Walton wisely decided to leave Kuzma on the court for the fourth quarter over the less effective Larry Nance Jr.
Brandon Ingram was playing in front of a huge friends and family crowd near his home town of Kingston North Carolina but was still able to overcome his nerves and contribute to the victory. Ingram continued his solid play of late with 18 points, six rebounds, one assists, one steal, four turnovers and a plus-6 rating while shooting 7-of-16 from the floor, 0-of-2 from 3-point range and 4-of-6 from the line. If this was a down game then Laker fans have a lot of reason to be excited for this young man’s future.
Julius Randle continued his string of strong defensive efforts by posting two steals and one block to go with 12 points, three assists and six rebounds and a plus-16 rating. His all around growth in his second year has been a joy to behold and portends to a tremendous future in this league.
Los Angeles was able to overcome a strong first half effort of ex-Laker Dwight Howard as he accrued 15 points, eight rebounds and two blocks in the first half to go with a plus-9 rating. Fortunately the Lakers were able to make adjustments and limit Howard to 21 points and 12 rebounds overall while decreasing his overall rating to minus-3 at the end of the game. Defeating Howard always brings an added bonus for Laker fans who are loathe to forget Howard’s short bittersweet tenure with the storied franchise.
The other player of note for the Hornets was Kemba Walker who compiled 23 points, four assists, three rebounds, one steal and a minus-2 rating.
Overall, the Lakers bench was simply too much for a shorthanded Hornets team trying to overcome the obstacle of a second game of a back-to-back that unfortunately followed a brutal overtime loss. Los Angeles’ largest advantage was their bench and it was prolific on this evening.
Key Stats and Observations
- The Lakers shot particularly well on the evening converting on 43-of-85 from the field (50.6 percent) compared to 41-of-93 (44.1 percent) for the Hornets. At the half the Lakers were being out shot 48.9 percent vs. 49.0 percent. They stepped up their efforts on both ends of the court in the second half.
- Los Angeles committed only 14 turnovers on the night — significantly below their season average.
- Through three quarters the Lakers were being outrebounded 38-34. They were able to best the Hornets 12-5 in the final frame to end the game with a 46-43 edge against one of the league’s best rebounding teams.
- Los Angeles had 28 fast break points vs. only 12 points for Charlotte.
The Lakers head to New York to take on the Knicks (12-13) and Kristaps Porzingis. Los Angeles chose to draft D’Angelo Russell instead of the unicorn and has regretted it ever since as Porzingis has proven himself an elite talent averaging 25.4 points, 6.8 rebounds, 2.1 blocks and 2.0 blocks a game — a truly transcendent player in the modern NBA game. In stark contrast, the Lakers were fortunate to use Russell as a trade trip to unload contractual anvil Timofey Mozgov in a deal to the Nets this offseason. The Lakers will be looking for their third consecutive win on the road and the possibility of a truly stellar road trip.