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Lakers player grades: Lakers survive and defeat the Clippers

The Los Angeles Lakers have been spiraling downward lately. They lost 10 of their last 13 games coming into Sunday night’s contest against the Los Angeles Clippers. Meanwhile, the Clippers had a five-game winning streak and had taken 14 of their previous 16 contests.

Many likely felt the Lakers had no real chance of winning this game. Even worse, a report surfaced that this contest would be “crucial” for head coach Darvin Ham’s job security.

After looking at least somewhat competitive to start the game, the Lakers fell behind 16-7 before fighting back with their defense. The Clippers have had a habit of getting off to scorching starts against the Lakers, but Kawhi Leonard and crew could only muster 24 points in the first quarter of this contest. That defensive effort allowed the Lakers to come to within 53-49 at halftime despite committing twice as many turnovers as their opponents.

They started to turn up their defense in the third quarter and forced eight turnovers in the period to go up 81-77 going into the final 12 minutes. The Purple and Gold went up by as many as 10 points in the fourth quarter before Kawhi Leonard and crew made things tight. But the Lakers were able to get enough stops in crunch time to pull off a surprising 106-103 victory.

The Lakers won this game the old-fashioned way — with defense. The Clippers had been white-hot offensively of late, but they shot just 39.6% from the field in this contest. Leonard shot just 6-of-17 from the field while James Harden was 4-of-13 while committing five turnovers. Overall, the Clippers shot a freezing 30% from the field in the final period.

Meanwhile, the Lakers finished at 51.2% from the field and 37.9% from 3-point range.

They can use this game as a model for how they can win games with regularity and impetus for a legitimate turnaround moving forward.

Anthony Davis: B/B-plus

Davis had a relatively quiet first half, as he scored just eight points and didn’t get to the free throw line. The Lakers were unable to get him the ball in the low post much, and part of that was because the Clippers were fronting him.

The second half was better for him — he shot 6-of-8 from the field in that span, allowing him to finish with 22 points plus 10 rebounds, three steals, one assist and one blocked shot. He only got to the free throw line for four attempts, and he made just two of those attempts.

Cam Reddish: C/C-plus

Reddish was a mixed bag in this game. He committed five turnovers and had some trouble holding onto the ball. While he converted only two of his six shot attempts, he was 2-of-3 from 3-point land, and he also contributed four rebounds, two steals and one assist in 20 minutes.

Austin Reaves: D-plus

Reaves has been playing very well over the last few weeks, but this wasn’t his night. He took only five shots in 32 minutes and converted only two of them while missing all three of his attempts from downtown. The undrafted guard also had only two assists after dropping 29 dimes in his last three games.

The Clippers, in particular Harden, defended Reaves very well and didn’t go for his shot fakes. But Reaves was able to draw enough fouls to attempt a team-high five free throws, of which he made four. His one missed foul shot came in the waning seconds with the Lakers clinging to a 105-103 lead.

Taurean Prince: B-plus

Ever since the start of December, Prince has been shooting very well from the outside. That marksmanship continued on Sunday as he went 3-of-6 from downtown to score 13 points in 30 minutes.

He scored one of the biggest baskets of the night when he made an open trey with 1:17 left to break a 98-all tie. From that point on, the Lakers never trailed again.

The Lakers badly need players like that who will hit big shots from the perimeter in the pressure cooker with a game on the line.

LeBron James: B-plus

James’ numbers weren’t dazzling by his standards — he scored 25 points on 11-of-19 shooting and had eight rebounds, seven assists and four turnovers — but in some ways, he led the Lakers to this big win.

He started to assert himself more and more as the game wore on, and he scored his team’s first eight points of the third quarter to bring it to within one point. By providing that stability, he allowed it to finally take the lead with 8:05 left in the period on a Reddish 3-pointer.

The 39-year-old served up arguably the best highlight play of the season so far for the Purple and Gold early in the third quarter when he loaded up and threw down a big dunk over Paul George. He is still one of the NBA’s most athletically gifted players, not to mention one of its best, after all these years.

Christian Wood: A

Wood has legitimately turned things around recently after it looked like he had fallen out of Ham’s rotation. He played a very active game on Sunday, scoring nine points, snatching 10 rebounds and blocking two shots in just 16 minutes. He had a thunderous putback jam off a miss by Russell near the end of the third quarter to put the Lakers ahead by four, and it was a play that seemed to epitomize the energy and intensity he played with.

However, Ham took Wood out of the game with 7:14 left and the Lakers up by seven. The Clippers quickly responded by coming to within one with 6:16 left. Lineup decisions like this one serve as ammunition for Lakers fans who want Ham gone.

Jarred Vanderbilt: C/C-plus

Vanderbilt made almost no impact for two quarters and change, but that changed a bit afterward. He finished with four rebounds, four assists, two points and one steal in 21 minutes.

While one can argue he’s an offensive liability, he has the ability to positively impact the game through hustle plays, especially those that may not show up on the stat sheet.

D'Angelo Russell: B-minus

Russell returned to game action after missing the last three contests with a bruised tailbone. He missed his first four shots, all of which were 3-point attempts, but he started to get going late in the third quarter by making back-to-back treys.

He finished 5-of-14 overall and 3-of-9 from downtown to score 13 points while dishing off six assists and adding one steal and one block in 31 minutes. While this wasn’t a great game from him, the Lakers wouldn’t have won this one without him.

Max Christie: B-plus

Christie made a good effort to contest shots against the Clippers, and it resulted in two blocked shots for him. His effort also allowed him to grab three rebounds in 13 minutes.

The X-factor for him has always been his shooting, especially his outside shooting. On this night, he shot 3-of-6 from the field and made his lone 3-point attempt to score seven points.

When Christie is hitting from the outside, he instantly becomes a valuable role player for the Lakers.

Story originally appeared on LeBron Wire