April 11, 2018, 8:40 pm
The Lakers play a road game in their own arena against the Clippers on Wednesday as both teams look to close out their seasons on a positive note. This final matchup lends a certain element of closure as the two teams opened the year against each other October 19 in a game that resulted in 108-92 Clipper win.
The two teams would argue that they both had successful seasons with the Lakers showing tremendous growth from the previous year (winning at least eight more games than the previous year) and the Clippers beginning a rebuilding phase with a winning record. Both teams would have finished with more impressive records if they hadn’t been derailed by the injury bug. Each team has players that want to leave their mark on this campaign before they embark on offseasons that are likely to shape the future of each respective franchise.
Julius Randle took the microphone on Tuesday night to thank Laker fans and said “look forward to seeing you next season.” Randle, the only Laker to suit up for all 82 games (should he play Wednesday), has had a breakout season heading into restricted free agency. The decision to re-sign him will be one of the keys to the Lakers’ offseason and future. He heads into the last game of the season averaging 16.3 points, 8.0 rebounds and 2.6 assists while shooting 55.7 percent from the field. However, his stats were more impressive once he joined the starting lineup as well as showing the ability to pick up the slack for his injured teammates — he showed tremendous growth in his skill set and maturity.
Speaking of maturity, the story of Tuesday’s game was 32-year old Andre Ingram making his NBA debut after spending 10 years in the developmental leagues. The crowd, aware of his story, cheered him from the onset but no one could have predicted how well this fairy tale would develop. Ingram scored 10 points in his first seven minutes and finished with 19 points, three rebounds, one assist, one steal and three blocks on 6-of-8 shooting from the field. His transcendent performance prompted the Laker faithful to serenade him with MVP chants during one of his trips to the line. After 384 games in the minor leagues, he played an excellent game in front of his wife and family, treating Laker fans to a truly inspirational story to close out their season.
Another fan favorite, Josh Hart, played another stellar game with 20 points, seven rebounds and two steals while playing a game-high 40 minutes. Hart, the No. 30 overall pick in this year’s draft, has been a revelation for the Lakers, providing solid defense, 3-point shooting and leadership.
Tonight may be the last time Laker fans get to root for many players who have expiring contracts including the aforementioned Randle, Brook Lopez, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and many of the G-League players who are helping to fill out the depleted ranks at the moment.
The Clippers may have plenty of roster turnover this offseason including lifetime Clipper DeAndre Jordan, who has a player option and may choose to opt out of his contract. The Clippers were able to sign Lou Williams to an extension earlier this season to ensure that their leading scorer will return to help continue their rebuild next season. Williams, a former Laker, had a career year averaging 22.6 points, 2.5 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 1.1 steals. Unfortunately he will not take the court Wednesday due to an ankle injury.
In his stead, Sindarius Thornwell, who exploded for 20 points, five rebounds, seven assists, two steals and two blocks in his last outing, will get a chance to showcase his game at Staples Center. Thornwell played in the Laker organization earlier this year and may look for some revenge against the franchise that gave up on him. Hopefully Laker players got a chance to view his monster dunk over DeAndre Liggins and make an aggressive defensive play or seek shelter if he approaches the rim.
-The Lakers enter the game with a defensive rating of 105.7 (13th), a significant improvement from last year when they finished last in the NBA with a rating of 110.6 (Suns are last in the NBA this year with the same defensive rating of 110.6). The Clippers’ 107.6 defensive rating (19th) this year is down from the previous year when they earned a 105.8 rating. Perhaps one can attribute the change to losing Chris Paul, one of the league’s elite defenders at the point guard position.
-Kyle Kuzma finishes the season as the first Laker rookie in history to finish with at least 1200 points, 450 rebounds and 150 3-pointers. The last Laker to achieve that feat at all was Kobe Bryant.
-Brandon Ingram is the only player under 20 years of age to average 16 points, five rebounds and three assists — portending to an exciting future for the young Laker.
Projected Starting Lineups
Alex Caruso (PG)
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (SG)
Josh Hart (SF)
Julius Randle (PF)
Brook Lopez (C)
Tyrone Wallace (PG)
Wesley Johnson (SG)
C.J. Williams (SF)
Tobias Harris (PF)
DeAndre Jordan (C)
Brandon Ingram (concussion) – OUT
Lonzo Ball (knee contusion) – OUT
Kyle Kuzma (ankle) – OUT
Isaiah Thomas (hip) – OUT
Luol Deng (ankle) – OUT
Austin Rivers (elbow) – PROBABLE
Patrick Beverley (knee) – OUT
Milos Teodosic (foot) – OUT
Jawun Evans (abdomen) – OUT
Danilo Gallinari (hand) – OUT
Avery Bradley (groin) – OUT
Lou Williams (ankle) – OUT
Time: 7:30 PM PST, 10:30 PM EST
Television: FOX SPORTS PRIME TICKET, SPECSN/SPECD, TSN1,
Radio: AM 570 LA SPORTS, 710 AM ESPN, 1330 AM ESPN DEPORTES
April 22, 2019, 12:42 amRussell Westbrook - G - Oklahoma City Thunder
Russell Westbrook went 5-for-21 from the field to finish with 14 points, nine rebounds, seven assists and two treys in Sunday's 98-111 Game 4 loss to the Blazers.
Time and again in this series, it's been evident that Damian Lillard has been playing at a higher level than Westbrook and tonight was a fine example. Lillard was able to shake off his early shooting struggles and come up big in the second half, but Westbrook was still forcing shots and appeared to be on the back foot for most of the game. He's best when he's the one taking it to his opponents. A reactive Westbrook is simply not the star the Thunder need right now, if they want to salvage any hopes of coming back in this first-round series.
April 22, 2019, 12:36 amDennis Schroder - G - Oklahoma City Thunder
Dennis Schroder mirrored his 17-point performance from Friday with another 17-point game in Sunday's loss to the Blazers.
Schroder shot 6-of-12 from the field and added three rebounds, three assists, two 3s and one steal to the box score tonight. Aside from him though, the Thunder's bench was deafeningly quiet. He cannot carry the load of the second unit's scoring output by his lonesome, especially when they're faced up against a team with multiple weapons like the Blazers. For now, the Thunder can only hope he keeps this up and that the other reserves will follow suit.
April 22, 2019, 12:32 amJerami Grant - F - Oklahoma City Thunder
Jerami Grant made just 4-of-10 shots from the field on Sunday to finish with 11 points, nine rebounds, two assists, three triples and two steals in 34 minutes.
Grant's impact on the defensive end has been invaluable to the Thunder in this series and it was nice to see him active on the glass tonight, especially with Steven Adams being relatively quiet on that front with seven boards while adding six points, one assist, one steal and one block. Unfortunately for the Thunder, Portland's forwards, Maurice Harkless and Al-Farouq Aminu outplayed and out-hustled them on both ends of the floor.
April 22, 2019, 12:27 amPaul George - F - Oklahoma City Thunder
Despite being slowed down by turnovers and foul trouble, Paul George still managed to light up the box score in Sunday's loss to the Blazers with 32 points on 8-of-21 shooting, 10 rebounds, six assists, four 3s, one steal and one block.
George has been banged up as early as March and he's been such a trooper, powering through a bothersome shoulder to lead the Thunder in this first-round playoff series. Unfortunately, Damian Lillard and company have been far too much for OKC to handle and George's big nights have come and gone with a lack of ample support to properly contest for the win.
April 22, 2019, 12:23 amMaurice Harkless - F - Trail Blazers
Maurice Harkless had a swell two-way performance in the Blazers' 111-98 Game 4 win over the Thunder on Sunday, posting 15 points on 5-of-13 shooting, adding 10 rebounds, one triple, two steals and three blocks in 34 minutes.
Harkless was mostly a non-factor in fantasy during the regular season due to injuries. He's clearly feeling much better now and is delivering for the Blazers at the right time. If he can keep up posting performances like this, the Blazers could emerge as a dark horse to upset favorites in the west.
April 22, 2019, 12:18 amAl-Farouq Aminu - F - Trail Blazers
Al-Farouq Aminu was feeling it on Sunday, hitting 4-of-9 shots from downtown to help secure a Game 4 win over the Thunder via his 19 points (7-of-16 shooting), nine rebounds, one steal and one block.
The Blazers found an extra kick from Aminu tonight thanks to his hot hand. He's capable of explosions like this from time to time but they're not very consistent, making him a tough player to bank on in playoff DFS. Enes Kanter was relatively quiet as he put up eight points, 10 rebounds, three assists, two steals and one block.
April 22, 2019, 12:15 amCJ McCollum - G - Trail Blazers
CJ McCollum kept his foot on the gas pedal on Sunday, raining down five 3s on the Thunder en route to his team-high 27 points on 10-of-20 shooting, while adding four rebounds, three assists, one steal and two blocks.
McCollum is heating up at just the right time for the Blazers and he picked up some of the slack while Damian Lillard was struggling early in the first half. When he and multiple Blazers are able to put up full lines like this, Portland becomes a devastating opponent, even if the opposing team has name-brand superstars in the form of Russell Westbrook and Paul George.
April 22, 2019, 12:09 amDamian Lillard - G - Trail Blazers
Damian Lillard overcame a rough start in Sunday's game vs. the Thunder, found his game in the second half and was able to wind up finishing with 24 points on 7-of-19 shooting from the field and 6-of-6 shooting from the line.
Lillard has proven to be a true superstar in this series, managing to shake off a slow start to be able to deliver when his team needed the jolt on offense. He added four 3s, three rebounds, eight dimes and one steal to round out his line for the night. Despite Oklahoma City's best efforts, Lillard would not be denied. His ability to turn on a switch and take over a game makes him one of the Western Conference's most dangerous players.
April 21, 2019, 10:15 pmTerrence Ross - G/F - Orlando Magic
Terrence Ross could not get it going offensively in Sunday's 85-107 Game 4 loss to the Raptors on Sunday, recording just five points on 1-of-5 shooting (1-of-4 from deep) with two rebounds, three assists and one steal in 31 minutes.
This was a big blow for both the Magic and Ross' owners in DFS. He was coming off a solid 24-point gem on Friday, so this dud came as a bit of a surprise. In the end, costly turnovers and ill-timed fouls helped keep Ross from exploding like he's done in the past. Evan Fournier helped pick up the slack with 19 points (8-of-16 shooting), four rebounds, two 3s, two dimes and one steal in 35 minutes, but it still was not enough to go toe-to-toe with Kawhi Leonard and company in this crucial Game 4.
April 21, 2019, 10:10 pmAaron Gordon - F - Orlando Magic
Aaron Gordon shot 10-of-17 from the field to finish with 25 points, seven rebounds, five dimes, two 3s and one steal in Sunday's Game 4 loss to the Raptors.
Gordon was limited in the first half but turned up the heat in the third quarter where he scored 16 of his team-high 25 points. Unfortunately, his spirited play was not enough to mount a serious enough rally to challenge the Raptor's control over the game. The 23-year-old Gordon has displayed a fresh level of maturity in this series and finally looks prepared to make a significant leap forward in 2019-20.