Reggie Jackson’s season-high 36 points power Clippers’ rout of Lakers
LeBron James was looking for a lane Thursday night when the coach he won a championship with blocked his path.
The Lakers’ star was walking back to his huddle and into a timeout with his team trailing by nine only a minute into the second quarter when Lue briefly stepped in front and got the superstar’s ear. Lue chuckled later while claiming he couldn’t remember what he shared.
But whatever it was, Lue left the exchange laughing behind his black mask. And James?
“He wasn’t laughing,” Lue said.
This night would get only more comical for the Clippers and miserable for the Lakers as a 132-111 blowout proceeded and the yawning gap between these franchises’ season was never more apparent inside Crypto.com Arena.
The arena co-tenants ended their season series separated by one place and 5 1/2 games in the Western Conference standings but a gulf in demeanor and momentum even wider than this final margin.
It is the first time the Clippers have swept four meetings against their rivals in the same season since 2015-16. The Clippers are 32-7 against the Lakers since the 2012-13 season and have won five in a row overall.
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“They’re the better team,” James said.
After the Lakers trimmed a 17-point second-quarter deficit to three at halftime, Lue entered the locker room calm.
“T-Lue just kind of comes in calm, smiles and he’s like, ‘Hey, we’re in a great place,’” Jackson said. “‘If we stop turning the ball over, we’re in a great place.’”
The Clippers (34-31) scored 23 consecutive points in the third to spark a game that was over, finally, when Clippers guard Reggie Jackson drilled a three-pointer while chants of his first name’s two syllables hung in the air after a chippy exchange with Russell Westbrook on his way to 36 points with less than four minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. The Clippers outscored their rivals by 44 points in Jackson’s 35 minutes.
“He loves the moment, he’s a big-time player,” Lue said. “I know sometimes we go back and forth but at the end of the day he’s held us together all year.”
With the Clippers’ lead a stunning 29 with 3:57 left, there was no time for Lue to stop James entering the ensuing timeout — because the coach and Jackson were waving their arms in the air, asking for more noise on a night their season’s defining motto could not be made more clear.
After wins in seven of their last eight games to pull within one game of seventh place in the Western Conference standings, Jackson said he would not put a limit on his team’s potential, even while notably short-handed, if their play and self-belief continues like this.
“Why not defy the odds?” Jackson said.
Beating the Lakers, the team he won championships with and nearly coached in 2019, doesn’t carry extra significance, Lue said, though he referred to the team as still dangerous despite sliding to 27-35 and losing four in a row.
“It means more to win a game every single night,” he said. “I don’t care who it is.”
James finished with 26 points and eight rebounds to lead the Lakers, who allowed the Clippers to shoot 63% from deep.
Amid a third quarter won by the Clippers, 40-18, the teams’ two disparate seasons were on display. With Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and Norman Powell all watching from the sideline, with Lue offering no update on their injury recoveries, the Clippers continue to pound away.
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Meanwhile, injured Lakers including Anthony Davis and Talen Horton-Tucker watched their team play well for 10 minutes, leading by six, then fight back before halftime on a 14-0 run only to be overrun in a third quarter where the Clippers scored on all five transition opportunities and made five of their seven three-pointers. In one stretch James fell and slid on his back while running back on defense in the third quarter, the Clippers quickly used their numbers advantage to find Ivica Zubac all alone under the hoop for a dunk.
Jackson appeared at his postgame interview wrapped in a towel nearly over his head, a product of Lue’s last trick of the night. As they walked toward the locker room, the coach engaged his point guard in conversation about an errant pass he’d thrown, talking quietly enough that Jackson had to lean in to listen, his focus all on Lue. It was all a ruse. George was coming the other direction toward Jackson carrying water.
Jackson got doused. And as he retold the story, all he could do was laugh.
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