LeBron James Drops 23 in Return from COVID-19 Protocols as Lakers Fall to Clippers

Paul KasabianFeatured Columnist IIDecember 4, 2021

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (6) defends against Los Angeles Clippers guard Reggie Jackson (1) during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Friday, Dec. 3, 2021. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)
AP Photo/Ashley Landis

The latest battle for Los Angeles went in the Clippers' favor as they defeated the Lakers 119-115 on Friday at Staples Center.

Clippers forward Paul George had a near triple-double with 19 points, nine assists and eight rebounds. Luke Kennard also had 19 points and hit back-to-back three-pointers late in the fourth to give the Clips a 116-111 lead.

Lakers forward LeBron James, who made his return to the court after missing one game upon entering the health-and-safety protocols, responded with a layup to make this a one-possession game.

Marcus Morris Sr. then nailed a bank-shot three-pointer with seven seconds left to give the Clippers a 119-113 lead and effectively seal the game. He led six Clippers players in double digits with 21 points.

The Clippers improved to 12-11 to snap a three-game losing skid. The 12-12 Lakers' two-game win streak ended with the defeat.


Notable Performances

Clippers F Paul George: 19 points, 9 assists, 8 rebounds

Clippers F Luke Kennard: 19 points

Clippers F Marcus Morris Sr.: 21 points

Lakers F LeBron James: 23 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists

Lakers F/C Anthony Davis: 27 points, 10 rebounds

Lakers G Malik Monk: 20 points


Morris, Kennard Lead Clippers to Victory

The Clippers welcomed back George after he sat Wednesday's game against the Sacramento Kings for rest. His team sorely missed his presence as the Clips lost 124-115.

It was a far different story Friday as George did a little of everything in the victory. His presence and poise clearly helped the Clippers as it broke a nasty skid.

However, it was Morris and Kennard who ultimately willed the Clippers to victory with their timely shooting.

Morris made 6-of-9 three-pointers in the win, while Kennard knocked down 5-of-8 shots. They helped lead a Clippers team that made 16-of-35 three-pointers, which ultimately made the difference in this game.

The Clippers led by as many as 12 points, but the Lakers chipped away at the lead and trailed by just one after Anthony Davis made 1-of-2 free throws to cut the lead to 100-99 with six minutes left.

That's when the threes started falling. Kennard got things going off a dish from Reggie Jackson, who drew in the defense before kicking it out to the lefty:

LA Clippers @LAClippers

Cool Hand Luke 👌<br><br>📺 <a href="https://twitter.com/BallySportWest?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@BallySportWest</a> | <a href="https://twitter.com/LukeKennard5?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@LukeKennard5</a> <a href="https://t.co/aOw18686MD">pic.twitter.com/aOw18686MD</a>

After a Malik Monk bucket and another Davis free throw cut the lead to one again, Jackson hit a three of his own

From that point forward, it was basically the Morris-and-Kennard show. They combined to score the Clippers' final 13 points, with Kennard getting eight.

It was Morris, however, who went to the bank to seal this win:


Marcus Morris banks in a DAGGER 3 to seal the Clippers' W 🎯 <a href="https://t.co/T3qSLXMNgf">pic.twitter.com/T3qSLXMNgf</a>


It was a great night for Morris, who had nailed a four-point play earlier in the contest.

LA Clippers @LAClippers

AND ONE!!! <br><br>📺 <a href="https://twitter.com/BallySportWest?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@BallySportWest</a> | <a href="https://twitter.com/MookMorris2?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@MookMorris2</a> <a href="https://t.co/fW94bPHJtB">pic.twitter.com/fW94bPHJtB</a>

The Clippers needed to keep the Lakers at bay all night as the trio of Davis, James and Monk kept the pressure on for four quarters, but Morris and Kennard both responded in kind to lead their team to a much-needed win.


LeBron Fares Well Enough in Return, But Team Defense Falters

This wasn't James' most impressive effort, as he shot just 9-of-23 (2-of-8 from three-point range). However, he could certainly be excused after missing court time this week upon entering the health-and-safety protocols.

He ultimately gave the Lakers 36-plus minutes, amassing 23 points, 11 rebounds and six assists. He saved his best for last and scored 11 of his points in the fourth quarter alone to help the Lakers go blow-for-blow with the scorching-hot Clips.

That scoring surge included this hammer dunk early in the fourth quarter to cut the Clippers' lead to 91-87:

Los Angeles Lakers @Lakers

On the attack. <a href="https://t.co/1KwrEd4vrl">pic.twitter.com/1KwrEd4vrl</a>


James certainly wasn't the reason why the Lakers lost this game. Rather, their struggling defense reared its ugly head yet again.

L.A. finished first in defensive rating last year, per Basketball-Reference, but that number has dropped to 15th this year. The figure may go even lower after the Clippers game, which featured the Lakers' rivals getting off any shot they wanted.

Keith Smith of Celtics Blog offered his insight:

Keith Smith @KeithSmithNBA

The Lakers give up so many wide-open shots. The defense should not be this bad. It puts so much stress on the offense to play perfectly.

Lakers Nation put the situation in more blunt terms:

Lakers Nation @LakersNation

Zero defense being played.

It didn't help that the Clippers took advantage of their chances, shooting 50.6 percent on the night and nailing 21-of-24 free throws.

Simply put, the Lakers' defense has to be a lot better for them to have any chance at competing for Western Conference supremacy, but as of now, this team looks like it will have enough trouble making the playoffs unless their effort on the back end improves significantly.


What's Next?

The Lakers will stay home to host the Boston Celtics on Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET. The Clippers will travel north to face the Kings at Golden 1 Center on Saturday at 10 p.m.