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Playoffs or play-in for Lakers? Five takeaways from loss to Clippers

Lakers forward Anthony Davis grabs a rebound next to Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard.
Lakers forward Anthony Davis collects a rebound next to Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard on Thursday night.
(Ringo H.W. Chiu / Associated Press)

Here are five takeaways from the Lakers’ 118-94 loss to the Clippers on Thursday night:

1. Really? Again?

The Lakers spent two days trying to figure out how they’d be able to make it work without a point guard, how they could make Anthony Davis the focal point of everything they do. And in nine minutes, none of it mattered.

Davis left the game because of back spasms — an injury unrelated to an early run-in with the scorer’s table that made it seem like he’d suffered an ankle injury.

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“The ankle’s fine, I have no problem with the ankle. I kinda caught it before it turned all the way. I know it looked kinda bad, but it’s fine,” Davis said. “And then there was no certain play; during the first timeout and into the second timeout, I kind of just felt [my back] locking up more and more and more. And then eventually when I came out around the three-minute mark in the first quarter, umm, got to the point where it was pretty tough. It feels better now, got some work done. And I should be able to go tomorrow.”

But what if Friday’s game in Portland is just another chance for another player to have something go wrong? It has been that sort of season.

“I don’t think I’ve ever went through like injuries, guys being out. I mean, everything,” Markieff Morris said. “…This is the most stuff I’ve been through in my career, probably. I’ve probably never seen anything like this.”

It’s all been a little disheartening for a team that knows it needs to be healthy to win.

“I don’t know if we’ve got juju issues around here or something. We just, every game it’s something different. Got injuries, mishaps, whatnot,” Kyle Kuzma said. “But at the end of the day it’s just basketball and these things come, and we just have to kind of just do things on the fly, and that’s just the cards that we’re dealt.

2. The good news?

As Davis said, the good news is that he’s planning on playing in a very big game for the Lakers in Portland, with the winner clinching the head-to-head tiebreaker between the teams.

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This latest chapter in the Lakers legacy of Anthony Davis will be written about how strongly he can carry a team, but he’s not playing like a giant.

The bad news? The Lakers still won’t have LeBron James. They still won’t have Dennis Schroder. And, thanks to a calf injury, they won’t have Talen Horton-Tucker.

The better news? The Lakers don’t seem to view the play-in tournament as some sort of unclearable hurdle.

“We know we’re gonna get 100% healthy,” Davis said. “Bron maybe has a week. Dennis, five, six days left or something. But when we get everyone healthy, especially headed to the playoffs, we know the type of team that we are, and I think the league knows the type of team that we are.

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“So, no matter if we have to play in a play-in game, or we get the fifth or sixth seed, we’re ready to compete against anybody. But our main focus is that we have to get 100% healthy.”

3. No point

Without James and Schroder, the Lakers relied on Alex Caruso to handle the point guard duties, and it didn’t go great.

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Caruso, a plus/minus god off the bench, was minus-25 in his nearly 29 minutes. And things will get tougher in Portland, where he’ll be chasing around Damian Lillard.

The Lakers kind of used everyone as a possible backup to Caruso and will do that again for at least one more game.

4. Where’s the D?

There is a recipe to how the Lakers can pull off a win in Portland this short-handed. It doesn’t include defense the way the Lakers played it against the Clippers, who hit better than 53% from the field and 41% from three.

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Paul George had 24 points as the Clippers blew out the Lakers 118-94 on Thursday at Staples Center.

“I think we’ve just got to win the game, for real, for real. I think if we come together, if we defend at a high level, don’t turn the ball, rebound well and share the ball and AD plays,” Kuzma said, “I think we’ll be all right.”

5. Bring on the play-in!

Davis had this to say about the Lakers in a play-in tournament:

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“I mean, we don’t look at it as something bad. To be honest, we need a lot of games, we need games to get back accustomed to each other, anyway. So, I mean, if it happens that way, it happens that way. Obviously, we don’t want to go that route. But if it happens, it happens. We’re gonna win games in the play-in and then get ready for whoever we play in the first round and take care of business from there. So, we look at it as game reps in the play-in. And if not, then we got a little bit more practice time to get accustomed to each other. So, either way, we’re fine either way. Like I said, we know the type of team that we are.”


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