Lakers’ long-range shooting woes sink them against Clippers

The early season can be mirror, a chance for a new team to look at itself and see an honest reflection — strengths and weaknesses, what you are and what you aren’t.

But if you’re honest with what’s in the reflection, you might not like it.

Facing one of the best teams in their conference for the second straight game to open the year, the Lakers looked outclassed.

If they lacked continuity and efficiency in the opener, they didn’t have nearly enough size or strength in Game 2, the road to the top of the West seeming impossibly far away less than a week into the season.

Oh, and there’s the shooting and fouling — problems that look debilitating.

The Lakers missed and missed and missed for the second-straight game. And while the fight, the ferocity and the force were all improved, the Lakers just don’t seem good enough, falling 103-97 to the Clippers, their eighth-straight loss to their in-arena rivals.

Lakers forward Anthony Davis dunks in front of Clippers center Ivica Zubac in the first quarter Thursday.

(Wally Skalij / VFAB)

The Clippers led by as many as 16, riding momentum from Kawhi Leonard’s return and John Wall’s debut. But 22 turnovers, many the result of the Lakers’ defense, allowed them to author multiple comebacks and even grab a fourth-quarter lead.

But the Clippers clamped down and the Lakers couldn’t score — Russell Westbrook, Kendrick Nunn and Patrick Beverley combining to shoot just one for 25.

Westbrook missed all 11 of his shots, scoring only two points.

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“Our offense is producing a lot of good looks,” Ham said. “It’d be different if that wasn’t the case.

“I trust that they’ll bounce back.”

Lonnie Walker IV scored 26, Anthony Davis added 25 and LeBron James had 20, but the team shot just 35.1% in the loss.

Six Clippers scored at least 11, including 15 for Wall and 14 for Leonard.

The Lakers’ on-court problems are mirroring early off-court drama, coach Darvin Ham already having to address critical comments made by Westbrook and James.

Westbrook’s assertion that coming off the bench in the team’s preseason finale “absolutely” contributed to a hamstring problem needed to be addressed in a conversation between the Lakers coach and the former MVP.

“Well first and foremost, let me be clear with this: The Lakers, myself, my staff, we would in no way, shape or form put a player or an employee in harm’s way. Physically, mentally spiritually. We don’t stand for that. We’re not about that. That’s not who we are,” Ham said. “Second of all, Russ and I have discussed what was out there. Brief discussion. We moved on, we got an understanding. And again, as the coach of this team, we’re gonna do what’s best for our team to be as successful as it can be. And I’ll just leave it at that.”

Ham later said he felt like Westbrook thought starting was important because of “respect” for what he’s accomplished and because of his “routine,” something Westbrook cited after Tuesday’s game.

“He’s been around a long time. He’s been a high-level player for a very long time. So, I know what that’s about and how that is,” Ham said. “But on the other hand, you have to be prepared to do whatever your team needs you to do. And that’s called being a professional. So, however we choose to use him, there has to be a willingness there to sacrifice for your teammates and overall good of the team if that course of action is going to lead to success.”

Lakers forward LeBron James blocks the shot of Clippers forward Paul George.

Lakers forward LeBron James blocks the shot of Clippers forward Paul George in the fourth quarter Thursday night.

(Wally Skalij / VFAB)

Ham, though, agreed with James’ comments about the team’s shooting. He did say that he wants his players to continue launching with confidence.

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“As long as we keep taking good shots and getting open looks, our guys have to step up and make ’em. It’s a make-or-miss league,” Ham said. “I’m not in any way offended by Bron’s comments in any way, shape or form. It’s basketball: You gotta make plays, you gotta get stops, you gotta make shots. You also have to score to win various ways, but no, we’ll continue to get our reps up in our practices, in our shootarounds. And I’ll continue — my staff and I will continue to encourage those guys when they’re open, shoot the ball.”

There were moments — the Lakers forced consecutive turnovers and got on the break in
the first half, Westbrook nodding in approval at the bench as the Lakers moved from a run to a sprint.

“We’re trending in the right direction,” Ham said after the loss, noting the Lakers’ defense.

And in the fourth, the home crowd roared after Austin Reaves hit a jumper and threw a lob to Walker put the Lakers up 89-87.

They never led again, their misses crippling the Lakers’ chances for a win.

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