Lakers come back from 21 down in fourth to defeat Clippers

The Lakers take three out of four games against the Clippers this season.

LOS ANGELES — How the Lakers did this, I will never know. But then again, maybe we do know.

A massive fourth quarter from LeBron James and incredible three-point shooting enabled the Lakers to make a comeback. Down 19 entering the fourth (and 21 a bit into the period), the Lakers bore down, hit all the shots, and beat the Clippers, 116-112.

It was a seemingly even match-up in the first quarter. But the Clippers pulled ahead after a Kawhi Leonard tip-on, 30-29.

The second period is where the Lakers started running into trouble. That lack of energy that I brought up in the preview? It happened here again. Boxouts? Forget it. The Clippers seemed to walk through the Lakers’ open door as they got lay-up after lay-up. James Harden and Terance Mann got some of the easier buckets they’ve had all season and the Clippers went up, 66-52, by the break.

The Lakers would run off 8 straight as they cut the deficit to single digits. But the Clippers would counter with a run of their own as they had a 10-1 boost. Lakers would cut it to 11 but the Clippers closed the quarter with a 12-4 run, which was topped off by a Norman Powell three at the buzzer. The Clips were up, 96-77, and it was looking like a blowout.

But LeBron James, even at age 88 (39; same difference), had fire in his hands. He went on an incredible run as he scored 19 points (five threes) in the fourth, outscoring the Clippers by himself. A Rui Hachimura three somehow gave the Lakers the lead. Still, the Clips had a chance to win as they were down, 114-112, with 9.3 seconds left. Kawhi Leonard missed the short jumper uncharacteristically and Cam Reddish (who just returned for this game) got away with the clinching slam before the final buzzer.

Where do we even begin?

It’s insane what we just saw. We all keep harping on this but LeBron James has tons of miles on his legs. He’s 39 years old, the oldest player in the league. He’s in his 21st season, which only five other players have done in the history of this league. But it’s not like he’s playing a smaller role; he’s still playing starter minutes and you can still argue that he’s a Top 5-10 player in the league. It’s amazing. What he did in that fourth quarter is the stuff of legends. 19 of his 34 points in that fourth quarter. And he was also finding the open guys like Hachiura and D’Angelo Russell (with that awesome three with his hands on the ready that nearly clinched the game).

They don’t get this done without playing defense, either. The Clippers turned the ball over 6 times in the fourth. And they went 1 for 7 (.142) from three. It was a recipe for a catastrophe. With stops on one end and LeBron filled with molten lava, the Lakers played an A+ fourth quarter.

The Clippers are a great team and are still really a championship team. But the Lakers made a championship comeback on Wednesday and, while they shouldn’t rely on these sort of rallies (which I’ve made clear before), they are certainly capable of defeating all the good teams. We’ve seen them look unstoppable in their run to the In-Season Championship. Why can’t they look this great for the rest of the regular season? And then from April to maybe June? Anyway, the Lakers defeated the Clippers in three of four games this season.

We’d like to see this sort of intensity more from the Lakers. We really saw two different teams out there (the passive one in the first three quarters to the extremely aggressive defending team in the fourth). If they can be this good defensively for the rest of the quarter, they can certainly make noise and rise up in the standings in the Western Conference.

LeBron finished with 34-6-8 and we’ll certainly remember that fourth, which will go in the annals (I spelled it right!) of NBA/Lakers history. Anthony Davis went for 20 points and 12 boards while D’Angelo Russell scored 18 points and dish out 6 assists. Rui Hachimura put in 17 points and Austin Reaves had 13 points and 8 boards. Kawhi Leonard led the Clips with 26-7-6 while James Harden had 23 points (only 5 after halftime) and 9 dimes. Shoutout to Terance Mann, who had 16 points.

The Lakers have a back-to-back as they face the Washington Wizards in another dangerous trap game. We’ll have the preview hours before Thursday night’s contest.

In the meantime, this is like the Lakers’ biggest win of the season for the 9th time. We know how these go.