With four games left in the regular season, the Clippers (47-31) are addressing familiar problems.“We just haven’t put the lid on games very well,” said Blake Griffin, who led the Clippers with 36 points while making 12 of his 15 shots from the field. “That is a little concerning, but we’ve got to figure it out. We also got to get these wins. I like the way we finished the game out but we’ve got to be better.”Two days earlier they let Phoenix come back from a 12-point hole before holding on to win. A night before that, Washington stormed back from an 18-point hole to challenge the Clippers down the stretch. Most infamously was last Sunday, when they blew an 18-point lead in the final five minutes to lose to Sacramento.So when the Clippers built a 22-point lead near the end of the third quarter on Saturday, it was not hard to anticipate that the Lakers would have a chance. Led by a career-high 19 points from David Nwaba, the Lakers rallied to steal momentum and cut the deficit to eight with 2:52 remaining in the game.“To scrap and stay in the game was a lot of fun and good for our guys,” Lakers’ coach Luke Walton said. “But a 17-0 run is tough to start a game.” Doc Rivers stressed that in the playoffs the rotations will be different and he will not rely so heavily on his bench, which has struggled defensively. He went so far as to say he is content with the Clippers play.“You win the game,” Rivers said. “You look at your team and we’ve had some pretty good wins, too, and we’ve had some games where we didn’t play well.”That, Griffin said, won’t cut it.“You can’t win games in the playoffs playing inconsistently,” Griffin said. “It is concerning. How much concerning I’m not really sure. I just know we can’t do this in the playoffs because every team that makes the playoffs is a good team. … So we have to be better.”The Clippers have three days off before their next game, Wednesday against Dallas. They are on pace to finish No. 5 in the West and travel to Utah for the first round.For the third straight game, both Griffin and Chris Paul scored well over 20 points, with Paul pouring in 29. DeAndre Jordan added 11 while grabbing 12 boards and blocking a pair of shots.The Clippers bench, however, was outscored 55-13 by the youthful Lakers, who got a boost from Thomas Robinson. Robinson scored 16 points to go with 9 rebounds and his presence in the first quarter helped the Lakers climb back in the game.Brandon Ingram, in his first game back after missing three because of tendinitis in his right knee, added 18 points, while Julius Randle finished with 14.Despite those helpful efforts, it was the dreadful start that floored Walton.“It’s a good example of what’s going to happen to us if we’re not engaged in the fight to start,” he said. “These are good teams we’re playing against. We can’t afford to start a game without that edge on us.” LOS ANGELES >> Four minutes in, the Clippers had scored 17 consecutive points and L.A.’s second team appeared to be headed for another one of the blowouts that has so defined the series with the 16-time champion Lakers over the last five years.These Clippers, however, don’t slam doors. They leave them ajar.After letting the Lakers rebound from that imposing deficit and even take a brief lead, the Clippers rounded into form late to beat the Lakers 115-104.While it was the Clippers’ seventh win in their last nine games and it moved them closer to a first-round matchup with Utah, all is not right with the Clippers. It was their 18th win over the Lakers (21-55) in the last 20 games, but there was no chest-thumping. Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error
“If we don’t communicate, we have defensive lapses,” Russell said. “We don’t talk plays out when it easily could be talked out to limit the confusion.” The reasoning for those lapses seem simple. “When you get caught up in the moment,“ Williams said, “sometimes you tend to watch and rely on the next person to make the play instead of everybody being on one accord.”Grading on a curveThe final play on Tuesday showed Russell taking a pull-up 3-pointer that ended with an airball. The box score revealed Russell scoring only four points on 2-of-11 shooting. Walton reached a different conclusion on Russell’s game, though. “D’Angelo really played well,” Walton said. “He was more active (defensively) than he’s been when he was talking out switches and fighting (through screens). Offensively, he had more of a push to his game as far as setting the tone with the pace we wanted to play with.”Walton then described Russell’s missed shots as “good looks.” “Shooters always figure it out. If it was me missing like that, I would be very worried about it,” said Walton, referring to his 11-year NBA career. “For someone that has some shooting touch like that, he’ll be fine.” So, Walton featured Russell in the final four minutes, 11 seconds. “I struggled on the offensive end, but on the defensive end, I tried to make every play,” Russell said. “Coach has a variety of amount of guys he can pick from to finish the game. So I’m trying to be one of those guys every game. Defensively, I thought I earned it.” Mum’s the wordThe Lakers declined to confirm an ESPN.com report that said they hosted a workout recently for free-agent forward Donatas Motiejunas. The Lakers reportedly are mulling whether to add Moniejunas to help the Lakers absorb a four-week absence to forward Larry Nance Jr. (left knee). Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error LOS ANGELES >> The experience seemed painful enough in real time. For the sake of self-reflection, though, the Lakers held a lengthy film session on Wednesday that partly entailed re-watching the final moments of Tuesday’s two-point loss to Utah. Lakers coach Luke Walton watched various “opportunities that would have given us a chance to win the game.” Then, the Lakers (12-23) might show different late-game when they play host to the Dallas Mavericks (9-23) on Thursday at Staples Center. With Walton regretting his play call that did not anticipate Utah center Rudy Gobert missing both free throws with 13 seconds remaining, Lakers guard Lou Williams could not get free from a screen. So, Lakers guard D’Angelo Russell hoisted a 3-pointer from the top of the key. The shot airballed as time expired. “We appreciate it as players that we’re all on the same page,” Williams said. “But at the end of the day, we’re the guys that are out there. We still should’ve made a play.” Walton also lamented the Lakers did not grab a rebound off of Julius Randle’s missed foul shot with 14 seconds remaining. Walton also faulted the team’s defense that gave open 3-point shots to Utah guard Joe Ingles. One shot gave the Jazz 95-93 lead with 2:58 left while another provided a 102-99 cushion with 21 seconds remaining. “It’s a characteristic of a young team,” Walton said. “But the challenge to our young guys is, ‘Let’s not let that be us.’” It sounds like the Lakers received Walton’s message.“I don’t like to use that as an excuse,” Randle said. Instead, the Lakers have mostly noticed their communication has dictated the outcome of close games. The Lakers are 2-4 in games decided by six or fewer points.