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Clippers look more comfortable than Lakers in fourth quarter

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December 25, 2019; Los Angeles, California, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) against the Los Angeles Clippers during the first half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

LOS ANGELES — It’s certainly tempting to overreact to Wednesday’s Christmas tilt between the Lakers and Clippers, in what ended up being a 111–106 win for the Clips. Do the Clippers have the mental edge? Are the Lakers frauds? Should Kevin Hart be allowed back at Staples Center after leaving early during a close fourth quarter? After a tightly contested matchup, it’s probably not worth trying to make too many sweeping conclusions based off a game that could have gone either way. That doesn’t mean there’s nothing to take away, however. And for that, let’s go straight to the fourth quarter.

For all their injuries and load management, the Clippers have a closing group Doc Rivers seems to be supremely confident in. The fivesome of Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, and Montrezl Harrell soak up most of the minutes in the final frame. Entering Wednesday’s game against the Lakers, that group had played in five fourth quarters together, averaging about four minutes per stint. On Christmas, they each played at least eight minutes in the last quarter.

The Lakers approach things a little differently. Frank Vogel typically goes small, but not always. And while LeBron James and Anthony Davis are obviously going to be on the floor in the fourth, the three spots around them can sometimes change depending on the situation. Danny Green is often playing, but Vogel then also has to decide between Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Avery Bradley, Alex Caruso and Kyle Kuzma, each of whom brings something different to the table. Against the Clippers, with the game slipping away, Vogel couldn’t seem to find the right combination.

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