Clippers at full strength in dominating win over struggling Lakers
Los Angeles (AFP) –
Paul George scored a team high 24 points as the Los Angeles Clippers clobbered the Los Angeles Lakers 118-94 on Thursday to sweep the season series between the two California rivals.
While the Clippers are getting healthy at just the right time, the Lakers season is slipping away with their two biggest stars, LeBron James and Anthony Davis nursing ongoing injuries.
"I only came here to win a championship and if we don't do that we go back to zero. We all know that in the locker room," said guard Rajon Rondo, who was one of seven Clippers in double figures with 11 points.
The Lakers got more bad news Thursday when Davis left the game in the first quarter and did not return because of back spasms. James and Davis have missed large chunks of the season and once again the reigning NBA champions looked lost on the floor without their primary ball handlers.
Not only are the Clippers healthy again but they are back sharing the ball.
"We have the DNA," said Rondo. "We have the blueprint in this locker room to do it. It's just a matter of coming together and believing in one another."
Superstar Kawhi Leonard played in his third straight game after missing nine games in April with a sore right foot and point guard Patrick Beverley was in his second game since rejoining the team for a 105-100 win over Toronto on Tuesday.
Leonard had 15 points, eight rebounds and six assists as the Clippers swept the Lakers during the regular season for the first time since 2016.
Kyle Kuzma scored 25 points to become just one of two Lakers in double figures scoring.
Both James and Davis have made their returns from long injury layoffs only to go back to the infirmary late in the season when they are needed the most.
Davis played nine minutes of the first quarter and had four points. He stepped awkwardly and went down with a twisted ankle before limping off to the dressing room. The Lakers released a statement saying that he would not return because of back spasms. Davis said later he doesn't expect to miss any games.
"My ankle is fine," said Davis. "It wasn't bothering me. My back locked up pretty bad. I feel better now. We will see how it is tomorrow. I should be good to go."
Coach Frank Vogel said they would follow the medical team's lead. "We will see how he feels tomorrow."
Elsewhere, Luka Doncic scored 24 points as the Dallas Mavericks overcame Kyrie Irving's 45-point performance with a 113-109 win over the Brooklyn Nets in a clash of two of the top teams in the NBA.
Doncic also had 10 rebounds and he got plenty of help from his supporting cast, including Tim Hardaway, who finished with 23 points in front of the pandemic-limited crowd of 4,600 at the American Airlines Center in Texas.
"They are a championship team. They have all the great pieces but we came out strong," said Doncic. "Kyrie had a great game but we were able to close it out."
The victory leaves the Mavericks in fifth place in the West, a game in front of the Lakers, who hold the final playoff spot.
Doncic now has 15 technicals on the season but says he needs to stay composed to lead the Mavs into the playoffs.
"I am complaining way too much and I got to work on that. I just go to stay calm and not talk to the (officials)," he said.
Dorian Finney-Smith finished with 17 points and eight rebounds, and Jalen Brunson chipped in 15 points for Dallas who have won eight of their past 11 games.
"This is all the experience we need," Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. "There's a lot of situations that are new. Last year at this time we were locked into the seventh position and we weren't going lower. This year is a whole different ballgame. There's so much in play."
Kevin Durant scored 20 points and had nine rebounds for the Nets, who have struggled on this road trip and have now lost four consecutive games.
Brooklyn played without injured James Harden for the 16th straight game.
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