NBALakers lose to Nuggets as Russell,Clarkson swap roles

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREUCLA alum Kenny Clark signs four-year contract extension with Packers DENVER – The revolving door that is the Lakers’ starting lineup took another turn Monday. The Lakers’ inconsistency, though, remained the same.The Lakers fell to the Denver Nuggets, 129-101, at Pepsi Center in a game in which they trailed by as many as 32. Though the Lakers chipped away in the second half, overcoming a 67-43 halftime deficit was beyond their grasp. The Lakers (20-47) lost for the 37th time in their last 47 games thanks to season-long shortcomings — poor defense and unsteady offense.Familiar outcome aside, this game at least featured a twist at the start with Coach Luke Walton making another lineup change. And this one did not involve demoting a veteran for the sake of developing a young player.Instead, Walton moved third-year guard Jordan Clarkson to the starting lineup while second-year guard D’Angelo Russell came off the bench for the first time this season. Clarkson had 19 points and three assists while going 7 for 18 from the field, but Russell was held to 10 points and three assists while shooting 4 for 14.“It’s cool,” Russell said. “It’s not a negative thing.”After all, the Lakers hold a two-game cushion over the Phoenix Suns (22-45) for the NBA’s second-worst record, giving the them a 55.8 percent chance of keeping their Top-3 protected draft pick, which is otherwise owed to Philadelphia as part of the 2012 Steve Nash deal.Walton also told Russell and Clarkson the move had nothing to do with their play. While Russell had averaged 20.5 points and 5.4 assists on 44.8 percent shooting in the eight games since the All-Star break, Clarkson had averaged 19.3 points and 3.6 assists on 46.4 percent shooting during the same stretch. Though Walton called Clarkson’s career-high 30 points and eight assists in Sunday’s loss to Philadelphia “pretty damn good,” Walton stressed other factors influenced his latest decision.“Just to see what it looks like when he’s out there running the point guard position against starting groups and what not,” Walton said. “That type of experience and that type of film breakdown with us will be valuable.”Walton also seemed intrigued to see how Russell and Clarkson would handle their new roles, no matter how temporary.“That’s part of everything. We’re always interested in seeing how everyone responds to different situations, adversity and challenges,” Walton said. “Part of our evaluation is always seeing how players respond to different opportunities.”Walton also started rookie center Ivica Zubac (career-high 25 points on 12-of-14 shooting and 11 rebounds) and newly acquired guard David Nwaba (two points) for the second consecutive game, while sitting veterans Nick Young, Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov. In other words, the reasons differ from when Russell lost his starting spot 20 games into his rookie season. Then, former coach Byron Scott expressed displeasure with Russell’s consistency, work habits and attitude.“I don’t want to compare it and talk about that,” Russell said. “That’s irrelevant. But it’s a way different feel as far as you know there’s a reason behind it.”Though he did not reach the 30-minute mark against Denver as Walton envisioned, Russell closed the game out as he had hoped.“I just want to finish the games, honestly,” Russell said. “I may not play the whole game. But if I finish the game, I know I’m growing.”Walton stressed his lineup experimentation will remain fluid, though it remains unclear if that will happen game-to-game. But for now, that meant swapping one young player for another.“It was tough because D’Angelo has been playing pretty darn well for us,” Walton said. “He’s obviously one of the young guys who is a big part of the future. We want to keep his confidence high.” Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Errorlast_img

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