Recovering from an injured groin, LeBron James did not play Friday night at Staples Center.
That didn’t mean the sellout crowd didn’t get a show from a No. 23.
Lou Williams, the Clippers guard known as the “Professional Scorer,” lived up to the moniker yet again by powering his team’s second-half comeback during a 118-107 victory over the Lakers and finishing with a season-high 36 points, the most by a Clippers reserve this season.
His three-pointer with just over two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter sealed it, giving the Clippers a 12-point lead.
He made it in front of Lakers guard Lance Stephenson and proceeded to strum air guitar, mimicking what has become Stephenson’s trademark celebration while backpedaling down the court.
“It was just fun,” Williams said. “I’m sure Lance won’t care and he’ll be back to playing his guitar tomorrow.”
On the next possession, two Lakers (20-16) were so concerned about Williams they face-guarded him atop the three-point arc while leaving Montrezl Harrell open for a dunk after an assist from Williams.
Fans began leaving for home.
It was Williams’ third consecutive game scoring20 points or more and helped his team dig out of a 10-point deficit in the third quarter.
“One of our coaches said, ‘I think this is going to be a Lou night tonight,’’’ coach Doc Rivers said. “You could see we just didn’t have it offensively and give the Lakers some credit. I thought they prepared for us pretty well. Their switching affected us a little bit but Lou pretty much has seen every defense that anyone can throw at him.”
Williams was part of a Clippers bench that “saved the game,” Rivers said.
The Clippers went from up six to down 10 by making five of their 15 shots during a 10-minute stretch spanning the second quarter’s end and the third quarter’s beginning.
Williams scored seven points during a 22-0 run that flipped the Clippers’ 80-73 deficit into a 95-80 Clippers lead with 9:45 remaining in the fourth quarter. It was the longest uninterrupted run by the Clippers since Nov. 29, 2009.
Williams’ surge helped the Clippers (21-14) overcome a rare off night for both Tobias Harris and Danilo Gallinari.
The forwards who have combined for an average of 41 points a game this season finished with 28 total Friday.
“We were just a little sluggish, just a step slow,” Williams said. “For whatever reason we just weren’t playing our best basketball.”
Williams’ 36 were the third-most points scored by a reserve across the NBA this season, behind only 39- and 37-point performances by Brooklyn’s Spencer Dinwiddie.
When Rivers brought Harris, Gallinari and fellow starter Avery Bradley back into the game with five minutes remaining, he kept Williams and Harrell on the floor and the move allowed Williams to close out yet another game.
“If you force him to the right he gets a layup,” Rivers said. “If you force him to the left, well, you can’t force him to the left. He’s just a really smart, good player.”