April 12, 2018, 3:56 am
The Lakers defeated the Clippers 115-110 on Wednesday to end their season on a positive note.
The game had the feel of an exhibition — possibly due to the fact that many of the players occupying significant roles were in fact members of the NBA developmental league or G-league.
Los Angeles, the good one, was led by Josh Hart, who turned in an extraordinary performance with 30 points, five rebounds, five assists, one steal and a plus-9 rating while playing a game-high 36 minutes. He shot 9-of-15 from the field, 7-of-9 from the 3-point line and a perfect 5-of-5 from the charity stripe. Hart, the No.30 overall pick in this year’s draft, ended the season on a particularly high note, putting an exclamation point on an already stellar season.
Alex Ingram, the hero from the night before after being called up following a 10-year career in the NBA developmental leagues, was unable to duplicate his debut performance, finishing with five points, six assists, three rebounds, two steals and a game-high plus-23 on 2-of-9 from the field and 1-of-4 from 3-point range.
Instead, the hero of the day was Gary Payton II, known as the mitten due to being the junior version of his father Gary Payton, who went by the moniker “The Glove” during his illustrious NBA career. Payton II accrued an impressive stat line of 25 points, 12 rebounds, two steals and a plus-22 rating on 11-of-19 shooting from the field and 3-of-7 from 3-point range. Payton II, renowned for his length and defensive ability, looked comfortable on both ends of the court, effectively showcasing his developed skill set for the impending season.
Julius Randle, playing his last game before his Laker future is determined by restricted free agency, finished with six points, five rebounds and three assists in a short 17-minute stint. He appeared to be content to let his teammates enjoy the limelight. Randle ended the season as the only Laker to play in all 82 games, showing tremendous improvement across every facet of his game.
Alex Caruso excelled against lower-level competition, as he is apt to do, accumulating 15 points, seven rebounds, two assists and a plus-21 rating on 5-of-11 shooting from the floor and 3-of-4 from 3-point distance.
Thomas Bryant had his best game with the Lakers with six points, six rebounds, one steal and two rebounds on 3-of-8 shooting, though he did go 0-of-5 from 3-point range. Thomas is hoping to secure a role with the team next season with the Lakers expecting significant roster turnover.
The Clippers were led by mid-season acquisition Tobias Harris, who chipped-in 23 points, five rebounds, three assists and one steal. He also accumulated a minus-23 rating and three turnovers.
Boban Marjanovic, a talented but seldom used 7’3” big man, took advantage of added opportunity to tally 12 points and 10 rebounds on 5-of-7 shooting in only 13 minutes. If DeAndre Jordan chooses to opt out of the player option in his contract, Marjanovic may have a chance at a larger role next season.
Montrezl Harrell, who has taken advantage of added opportunity since the Blake Griffin trade, continued to impress with 15 points, four rebounds, three assists, one steal and one block.
Key Stats and Observations-
-The Lakers’ regulars struggled from 3-point distance and the free throw line all season. However, tonight their replacements demonstrated the ability to excel in those two areas, hitting 17-of-39 from 3-point range (43.6 percent) and 14-of-16 from the charity stripe (87.5 percent). In comparison, the Clippers converted 6-of-18 from deep (33.3 percent) and only 12-of-28 from the charity stripe (42.9 percent).
-The Lakers outrebounded the Clippers 49-41 on the glass.
-The Lakers played sound interior defense, gathering six blocks compared to only one rejection for the Clippers. The Lakers were led by Ivica Zubac’s three blocks, including two highlight reel stuffs on the same sequence.
-The Lakers led the league in points in the paint for the season but were absolutely dominated in that area in their final contest, getting outscored 64-38 by the Clippers.
The Lakers’ players head into an offseason that should begin with positive exit interviews, followed by an extensive training regimen.
Several players face free agency including Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Brook Lopez, Isaiah Thomas and Randle.
The Lakers have openly discussed their desire to add at least one star to their current roster, creating the necessary cap space to chase the likes of LeBron James and/or Paul George. They went as far as trading Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. to acquire the room to pursue such acquisitions. During that transaction, they added the first-round pick of the Cavaliers, which projects as the No. 25 overall pick in the impending draft. Free agency, league-high cap space and the draft will afford the front office ample opportunity to continue to improve this roster and attempt to return to the playoffs for the first time in over five years.