Lakers run past Knicks late for 6th win in 8, 127-107
LOS ANGELES (AP) When the Los Angeles Lakers complement their up-tempo offense with solid defense, this long-struggling team actually looks pretty good.
Even without Lonzo Ball, the Lakers were plenty good enough to run right past the New York Knicks, who couldn’t keep up.
Jordan Clarkson had 29 points and 10 assists, Julius Randle added 27 points and 12 rebounds, and the Lakers beat New York 127-107 on Sunday for their sixth win in eight games.
Kyle Kuzma added 15 points as the Lakers (17-29) continued a midseason surge of solid play. Rookie point guard Alex Caruso set career highs with nine points and eight assists, making the most of more than 30 minutes of playing time while Ball missed his fourth straight game with a sore left knee.
The Lakers thought they did nothing spectacularly, but everything well – particularly on the defensive end, where they forced 17 turnovers. Los Angeles also won its fifth straight game at Staples Center after a 6-14 start to the home schedule.
”Defense. That was the only message at halftime,” Lakers coach Luke Walton said. ”During our home win streak, we have been really, really good defensively.”
Los Angeles took the lead late in the third quarter and pulled away down the stretch, scoring 10 consecutive points in a rally led by Clarkson and Randle. The Lakers finished on a 17-4 run.
”Randle and Clarkson, they were killing us,” New York coach Jeff Hornacek said. ”We tried multiple guys on both of them, but they took it to whoever was guarding them. That was a big key. We couldn’t get any stops.”
Kristaps Porzingis, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Michael Beasley scored 17 points apiece for the Knicks, who have lost 12 of 16. New York slipped to 2-2 on its seven-game trip.
Despite a solid shooting game, the Knicks couldn’t answer the aggressive transition game favored by the Lakers, who put up their highest-scoring performance in two weeks.
”They just played harder than us in everything,” said Enes Kanter, who had 12 points and 14 rebounds for New York. ”They got a lot of offensive rebounds. We got a lot of turnovers. I don’t think we can play like this in road games and expect to get a win.”
Clarkson followed up his 33-point performance Friday against Indiana with another high-energy effort. The veteran guard hit 12 of his 19 shots and added six rebounds.
Knicks: Porzingis drew a technical foul with 8:04 to play for vociferously protesting a foul call against teammate Ron Baker. The ensuing three-point play put the Lakers up by 11. … Courtney Lee added 16 points.
Lakers: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope also missed his second straight game with a right heel injury. … Kuzma jammed a finger on his right hand during the second quarter, but iced it and continued playing. … Brandon Ingram played through a mild left ankle sprain after the team determined he was healthy at game time. He managed 10 points on 4-of-13 shooting.
Walton said Ball might miss several more games, but the club is hoping he’ll be able to travel on their five-game trip starting Friday. The rookie point guard also missed six games around the holidays with a sprained left shoulder. The Lakers went 0-6 without him then.
Caruso is on a two-way contract that allows him only 45 days with the Lakers, and he’s keeping track of his time in the Notes app on his phone. He has already formed an impressive tandem with Clarkson, his former opponent in college when Caruso was at Texas A&M and Clarkson was at Missouri.
”I’m getting better each game, but I’m just getting acclimated to (the NBA),” said Caruso, who has played 15 games in the big show.
While Caruso feels his strengths are on defense, his ball-handling acumen allows Clarkson to be more aggressive in looking for his shot. The duo also is friends off the court.
”He’s from Texas, I’m from Texas, you know what I’m saying?” asked Clarkson, who grew up in San Antonio.
Knicks: At the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday night.
Lakers: Host the Boston Celtics on Tuesday night.
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