The pit the Lakers have fallen into grew deeper Monday night and as their mistakes mounted against the Clippers, so did the discontent of the home crowd at Staples Center.
The Lakers fans booed early in the fourth quarter. They booed midway through. They booed again late.
These weren’t loud, thundering boos, but rather the light, intermittent booing of resignation.
In the final seconds, a fan sitting several rows above Lakers owner Jeanie Buss screamed down at her:
“Hey Jeanie, this is trash!”
The Clippers beat the Lakers, 113-105, to increase their lead in the Western Conference playoff race. As they did it, they heaped more dirt on the Lakers’ coffin. With their third loss in a row, the Lakers are a season-worst four games under .500 at 30-34, six games behind the Clippers and 5 1/2 behind the eighth-place San Antonio Spurs, who also won Monday night.
“That doesn’t bother me or make me happy,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said when asked about pushing the Lakers even further out of the playoff race. “I don’t get excited … That’s for everyone else. Obviously the players know each other so maybe it means more to them, but for me, I just want our team to play. I’m just worried about us.”
Danilo Gallinari led the Clippers with 23 points, and Lou Williams scored 21. Patrick Beverley scored 13 with nine rebounds and five steals. LeBron James led all scorers with 27 points. Rajon Rondo notched a triple-double with 24 points on 10-for-18 shooting, 12 assists and 10 rebounds for the Lakers.
The Lakers were coming off a loss at Phoenix to a Suns team that had the NBA’s worst record, and more bad news awaited them at Staples Center. Brandon Ingram, averaging 27.8 points in the last six games, experienced pain in his right shoulder after shootaround. He warmed up but couldn’t play. Lance Stephenson (sprained toe) and Tyson Chandler (neck stiffness) also were out. Lonzo Ball hasn’t played since Jan. 19.
“Story of the season,” Rondo said.
Said James: “Haven’t been part of a season with this [many] injuries to all of our key guys. To big, big key guys.”
The Lakers entered Monday’s game in a desperate situation, their chances of making the playoffs diminishing by the day.
“Well, we’re desperate, too,” Rivers said.
The Lakers made an early push. Kyle Kuzma scored 11 points in the first quarter and the Lakers scored 34 for an eight-point lead. But the Clippers began to push back as the Lakers went three minutes without scoring in the second quarter and the Clippers cut a 10-point lead to one.
Gallinari scored 12 points in the quarter and they went into halftime leading 61-57.
In the second half, the Clippers were the steadier team. Although the Lakers pulled ahead late in the third quarter, the Clippers answered with the next 10 points — five by rookie point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander — to take the lead for good.
The Lakers finished shooting 41.8% overall and 26.3% from three-point range, making 10 of 38 from beyond the arc.
“It felt like in the second half when we missed those wide-open shots, that deflated the energy from us,” coach Luke Walton said.
Kuzma left the game with 6:04 left in the fourth quarter after planting his right foot awkwardly.
“To see him roll his ankle in a noncontact play was definitely tough,” James said.
When Kuzma walked to the locker room, many fans got up, too, and left.
Afterward Walton talked about coming in the next day and getting better. If the playoffs are out of reach, he was asked why that matters.