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Tired, road-weary Lakers show little jump against Clippers


Overtime, LeBron James said, didn’t do his recovering foot any favors. Anthony Davis knew he’d played in only a single back-to-back set once all year. And Austin Reaves knew his sore quad was going to be more of an issue than the shoulder stinger that sent him to the locker room.

Add onto that an extended stay on the runway in Salt Lake City while the plane got de-iced, and the tired, road-weary Lakers didn’t get home until the early hours Wednesday morning before their 125-118 loss to the Clippers.

It’s why postgame Lakers coach Darvin Ham made it seem like that, even with a huge game waiting for them in Los Angeles, the Lakers might have other priorities. With the loss to the Clippers, the Lakers fell to seventh, holding the tiebreaker over the Pelicans.

“We have a mission of our own,” Ham said Tuesday. “It’s gonna be a great game, a great matchup. But we have our short-term business that we need to take care of and our long-term business that we need to take care of.”

Apparently, though, after consultation with players and medical staff, the short-term and long-term aligned Wednesday, with the Lakers having their complete roster available to face the Clippers.

Ultimately, it didn’t matter other than the help the Lakers log reps on their way into a postseason that now seems more likely to include a place in the play-in tournament. James looked heavy-legged, and Davis struggled to find rhythm early before both arrived in the third quarter to tighten the score after the Clippers built a 24-point lead. He scored 17 points on six-of-nine shooting in the third quarter after a miserable first half, when he had five missed shots and four turnovers. In these types of situations, Ham said, he’d expect his players to try and push to play regardless of what the medical staff thinks.

“Guys are gonna be like that because they’re prideful and passionate about being available and ready to compete with their team,” Ham said pregame. “So, again, that’s why you put the best possible people around these guys, in terms of our medical staff. Understanding with a clear vision and not just selfish motives, in terms of we, ‘We have to get this game.’ No. We have to put our players in the best position to be able succeed.”

By the time the team released its injury update Wednesday, it was still unclear whether the team would have its full roster. And pregame, Ham gave no clues to whether Davis or James would be a go, even with Davis already having undergone his usual pregame on-court workout.

“Well, they’ll go through their process and then we’ll make an assessment and then go from there,” he said.

Lakers forward LeBron James gets tangled up with Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard in the third quarter Wednesday at Crypto.com Arena.

(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

The decision underscored much of what teams around the league face whenever they have a back-to-back on the schedule — particularly one late in the year.

Before Wednesday’s game, Ham said he hoped the decisions the Lakers made throughout the year when it came to scheduling could pay off at a moment like this.

“You manage loads throughout the course of the year so when you do get in these moments where you need certain games.” Ham said. “you like to hope that all of that time you’ve spent being careful and being efficient with physical activity and trying to implement rest days or light days, that once you get to this point in time, when you’re going to need to lean on people a little more. That’s barring any type of injury.”

But when injuries are involved, like the ones James and Davis are recovering and monitoring, that changes the equation. “I think once you start getting into a situation where you have players on your team that have legit issues, you have to still be careful,” Ham said. “You can’t allow … we appreciate our fans, we appreciate everyone that supports our league. It’s huge. It’s a beautiful experience for everyone to be invested into the performances of the individuals and the times as a whole, but you also have to be smart.

“As I said at the outset of this, player health is important. And the last thing you want to do is have a player or two or three sell out for one game and then it costs you going forward to the games coming up behind it.”



This story originally appeared on LA Times

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