Griffin hurts knee in Clippers’ win over Lakers
LOS ANGELES — The Clippers’ tight control of Los Angeles basketball continued Monday, yet nobody wearing the red, white and blue was in a celebratory mood.
Lou Williams scored a season-high 42 points and Blake Griffin added 26 as the Clippers held off the Los Angeles Lakers for a 120-115 victory and a 2-0 season record against their in-town rival.
Yet most of the focus in the Clippers’ locker room was on the status of Griffin, who did not play the last 3:53 of the game because of a left knee injury.
A Clippers spokesperson said afterward that Griffin’s status was unknown pending further evaluation Tuesday.
“We’ll just have to wait and see,” said Clippers coach Doc Rivers, who heaved a heavy sigh upon entering the postgame interview room. “It didn’t look good obviously, but we just have to wait and see. I don’t know.”
An equally subdued Griffin left the locker room following the game without speaking to reporters.
The injury occurred late in the fourth quarter with the Lakers’ Lonzo Ball chasing a loose ball and running into the Clippers’ Austin Rivers. Griffin was hurt when Rivers fell into his left leg.
“I thought it was a foul,” Williams said. “He got hit and the referees acknowledged he got hit, but I guess there were some other things that went on during that play. It’s tough; it’s basketball. It happens, and hopefully everything is all right.”
It was the 11th consecutive “home” victory for the Clippers over the Lakers, while the Clippers have also won 20 of the past 22 games in the matchup. Both teams call the Staples Center home.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 29 points for the Lakers, who had not played in five days after losing at the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday. It was Caldwell Pope’s third consecutive game with 20 or more points.
The teams were nearly identical from the field at 48 percent, and the Clippers had a 44-43 rebounding advantage, with a subtle difference emerging.
“At the free-throw line, we shot 60-some percent,” said Lakers forward Larry Nance Jr., who returned after missing the previous 11 games with a broken bone in his left hand. “We missed eight (free throws) and lost by five.”
Nance finished with nine points and eight rebounds in 30 minutes.
The Clippers trailed by as many as eight points midway through the final quarter, but they clamped down on defense and rallied for their third consecutive victory, a streak that has followed a nine-game losing streak.
Griffin led the Clippers with 11 rebounds, while DeAndre Jordan had nine. Jordan, who entered second in the NBA in rebounding at 13.9 per game, had 24 rebounds when the teams first met Oct. 10.
The Clippers have already been crushed by injuries this season, a big reason they are just 8-11, even with their current three-game win streak. They are currently without starters Milos Teodosic (foot) and Danilo Gallinari (hip), while guard Patrick Beverley is lost for the season after knee surgery.
“That was just gutty,” Rivers said about finishing off the victory without Griffin. “It was really nice to see our guys just hang in there and not say, ‘Oh no, another guy just went down.’ You didn’t see any of that in the timeouts. I think our guys were thinking they were going to find a way to win this game, and I love that in them.”
The Lakers (8-12) got solid play from their bench as Jordan Clarkson scored 17 points and Kyle Kuzma added 15. Brandon Ingram also had 17 for the Lakers, while rookie Lonzo Ball scored just three points, going 1-for-7 from the field and 1-for-6 from 3-point range. Ball added seven assists.
“There was some miscommunication, and (Williams) got hot from three,” Ball said of the difference between the teams late in the game. “He was very good at getting to the basket and getting fouled. I think he shot 14 free throws and made all of them, so that definitely hurt us.”
Williams shot 12-for-21 from the field, and 4-for-8 from 3-point range. He scored 15 points in the third quarter alone. It was Williams’ third consecutive start after coming off the bench to open the season. The point total was two shy of Williams’ career best for a single game.
“We just had to continue to push,” Williams said. “We’ve dealt with injuries this entire season so far. Once Blake went down, we understood the next guy had to step in with (a few) minutes to go, and we were able to buckle down and finish it.”
NOTES: Lakers rookie F Kyle Kuzma, the team’s leading scorer at 16.8 points per game, returned to a reserve role with Larry Nance Jr. returning from a broken bone in his left hand. ... Clippers F Blake Griffin has now made a 3-point basket in 19 consecutive games to start the season, the longest streak of his career. He is one of just four players to start the 2017-18 season with a 3-pointer in each of his team’s games. ... Clippers F Wesley Johnson, who averaged 13.2 points over his previous five games, scored just four points Monday on 2-of-7 shooting from the field.