LOS ANGELES — With three games remaining in the regular season and playoff seeding on the line, the Los Angeles Lakers played their stars Wednesday against the LA Clippers.
The question is, after a 125-118 loss in a game in which the Lakers trailed by as many as 24 points, was it worth it when they could have just prioritized rest in an attempt to be as spry as can be for the final two regular-season games this weekend?
“It’s one of the toughest games we’ve had this year,” said LeBron James, who scored 30 of his team-high 33 points after halftime but also had a team-high six turnovers. “Coming off the road trip and getting back late last night, after an overtime game … this was one of those scheduling conflicts in the season and definitely got the best of us tonight.”
James and Anthony Davis were both listed as questionable with their respective foot injuries, but the Lakers upgraded them to available approximately 45 minutes before tipoff, and both started the game.
Davis had 17 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks, playing in his first back-to-back set of games since November — before he suffered a bone spur and stress reaction in his right foot in December that cost him 20 games.
“I’ve been better,” he said when asked how his foot felt after the game. “But I’ll be fine.”
The Lakers — coming off a four-game, eight-day road trip that included an unplanned extra night in Minneapolis because of a snow storm and an overtime game in Salt Lake City on Tuesday as the finale — ran into a Clippers buzz saw, as Kawhi Leonard and Co. had been waiting for the game in L.A. with three full days off since their last game on Saturday.
“The circumstances weren’t used as a crutch,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham said. “They were just real. The real NBA schedule. Everybody goes through it at some point in their schedule in each and every year.”
D’Angelo Russell, who sat out Tuesday because of a sore left foot, and Mo Bamba, out since early March because of a high ankle sprain, also were upgraded to available.
Russell had 15 points on 6-for-13 shooting and seven assists in 40 minutes. Bamba did not get in the game.
“Just trying to get right,” Russell said of his foot injury. “Playing at 50 percent isn’t helping the team. Whenever I’m more than that, I’m ready to play.”
The Crypto.com Arena cohabitants came into Wednesday night with identical 41-38 records, with the Clippers owning the tiebreaker.
Wednesday’s result vaulted the Clippers to No. 5, a game ahead of the Lakers, while owning the tiebreaker. The Lakers are in No. 7 with home games against the Phoenix Suns on Friday and Utah Jazz on Sunday remaining.
The Lakers can still capture the No. 6 seed and avoid the play-in tournament by going 2-0 combined with the Golden State Warriors finishing 1-1. The Warriors have road games against the Sacramento Kings and Portland Trail Blazers remaining.
“Wherever we end up, that’s where we end up,” James said. “It’s been like four or five seasons in one for us. We don’t have the luxury of saying, ‘This is what we need to do. This is where we’re going to be.’ We need to still continue to play good basketball.
He added: “We’ll see. Wherever we fall, we’ll be ready to go.”