Clippers edge Lakers

LOS ANGELES — The L.A. Clippers just can’t catch a break.

In the fourth quarter of their slim 120-115 win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday night at Staples Center, Clippers forward Blake Griffin left the game with an injury after Austin Rivers fell to the floor and landed into his left knee.

Clippers head coach Doc Rivers said Griffin was in low spirits when he spoke to his star forward sometime after the injury.

“He’s down,” Rivers said. “Right now, he’s where we are at, hoping that it was just a bang and then it hurt, and that he’ll be alright.”

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Nance practices with Lakers

EL SEGUNDO — When Larry Nance Jr. broke his left hand against the Portland Trail Blazers on Nov. 2, that initial timetable for his return was four to six weeks.

“That wasn’t my plan,” Nance said Saturday after practice.

Indeed it wasn’t. Nance participated in a full-contact practice with the team just 23 days after having his left hand surgically repaired. He expects to return to action Monday against the L.A. Clippers.

“That’s the goal as of now,” Nance said. “I would like to be back. I think the guys would like me back. Luke, I would hope, would like me back.”

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Lakers defeat Bulls

LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Lakers came back from down 19 to win, 103-94, over the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday night.

Kyle Kuzma led the Lakers (8-10) with 22 points and five assists, while Kentavious Caldwell-Pope added 21 points and Brandon Ingram had 17.

Los Angeles fell behind 61-42 after Justin Holiday made two of three free throws after being fouled on a 3-point attempt early in the third quarter. But the Lakers subbed in Julius Randle and Josh Hart, who both gave the team the energy it needed to close the gap.

The Lakers outscored the Bulls 30-19 and did not have one turnover in the third quarter after committing 13 in the first half alone.

“The biggest difference was we started playing hard, which again, goes back to crediting Julius and Josh Hart. That was the physical part of it,” Lakers head coach Luke Walton said. “Mentally, I think the guys wanted to win.”

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Ball rebounding well

LOS ANGELES — Much has been said of Lonzo Ball’s court vision – the way he makes passes no one else sees, the way he’s multiple plays ahead of everyone else on the court, the way he throws ahead to his streaking teammates in any situation for layups in transition.

But in the past two weeks, Ball has proven he’s more than just an elite passer, even though he’s only a 20-year-old rookie. He’s been rebounding at a high rate, en route to two triple-doubles in the last nine days.

His most recent came in a 127-109 win Monday night against the Denver Nuggets. He had 11 points, 11 assists and 16 rebounds, and became only the second Lakers rookie to have more than one triple-double in a season. The first? Magic Johnson.

His 16 rebounds on Monday were the most by a rookie guard since 2000. Through 17 games, Ball is averaging 7.1 rebounds per game, which ranks 41st in the entire NBA. LeBron James is 34th, at 7.8 rebounds per game.

Lakers head coach Luke Walton said at Monday’s practice that he thinks Ball is an effective rebounder because of the way he sees the game and his desire to win.

“I think he attacks the rebound for where it’s going,” Walton said. “He’s not waiting for the ball to come to him. He goes and gets it and understands angles and gets up off the ground pretty well when he’s doing those things. But I think most of it is just his anticipation of where a ball is going.”

Ball, who averages the second-most boards on the team, said he’s often in prime position to pick up rebounds because the big men for the Lakers are boxing out their man, giving him a free path to the ball.

Growing up, Ball didn’t model his game after any player, even though he’s said before that he watched film of Johnson as a kid. Instead, Ball’s rebounding comes from playing with his brothers, LiAngelo and LaMelo, and his dad, LaVar.

“I was kind of forced to rebound at a young age,” Ball said. “I was usually in the back of the press of the 2-3 zone because my brothers were smaller than me. So I usually got most of the rebounds.”

Walton said associate head coach Brian Shaw challenged Ball to focus on his rebounding in an effort to get himself going during games. The emphasis on that part of his games seems to be doing the trick.

“Yeah I guess it shows you’re more engaged just because you’re going after the ball,” Ball said. “So, like I said, it definitely helps the offense, it helps me get more into the game. So any time I can get the rebound, I try to get it. I’ve proven I can rebound. When I’m not rebounding, it’s kinda like I’m out just there floating around.”

Ball has somewhat of a green light to pursue defensive rebounds because he’s so talented at it, Walton said. But when it comes to crashing the offensive boards, the Lakers coaches reign him in a bit more.

“Offensively, we still want him back,” Walton said. “He’s a really good offensive rebounder, too, so we’ve give him some freedom to crash the glass. But if it looks like there’s no opening for it, then we expect him to be the first man back and defending our transition defense.”

Ball, Lakers cruise to win over Nuggets

LOS ANGELES — The comparisons may be true.

Since Lonzo Ball was picked second by the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Draft in June, many said his game resembles that of Magic Johnson, the Lakers legend who is now the team’s President of Basketball Operations.

Only Johnson recorded multiple triple-doubles in his rookie season as a Laker. On Sunday night, Ball added himself to that list.

Ball got his second triple-double of the season with 11 points, 11 assists and 16 rebounds, and the Lakers cruised to a 127-109 win over the Denver Nuggets (9-7), who had won seven of their last 10 games heading into Sunday.

“This one’s a lot better,” Ball said of his second triple-double in eight days, the last one coming in a loss to the Milwaukee Bucks last Saturday. “I actually like this one.”

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Going to the ‘ship

ROSAMOND — Senior fullback Jacob Flores walked around the field with tears in his eyes after Friday night’s 42-28 win over the Riverdale Cowboys in the semifinal round of the CIF-Central Section Division 6 playoffs.

Flores remembered just how far the team had come since he first joined the Roadrunners as freshman four years ago.

“Since my freshman year, we finished our first game with eight guys,” said Flores, who had two rushing touchdowns of his own. “We got blown out. We didn’t score a touchdown until the fourth game. To come this far (and) make it to a CIF championship, we went through so much as a team. It’s just really emotional.”

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The best 4 years

LOS ANGELES — When rookie Josh Hart took the floor down the stretch against the New Orleans Pelicans in late October, he found himself switching defensively onto the likes of DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis, two 6-foot-11 powerhouses who practically tower over the 6-foot-5 Hart.

But something about those defensive rotations felt familiar to Hart. In the NCAA championship game in April of last year, Hart’s Villanova team used the same defensive philosophy to guard the bigger North Carolina team. The Wildcats, Hart said, generally played smaller and switched every position on defense.

“I played just about every level at college,” Hart said at a recent Lakers practice. “I’ve played against obviously D-II teams at exhibitions and I’ve played against lower D-I’s, high D-I’s and the national champions. So I played at different levels in college, so I know just certain situations.”

One of those situations was guarding bigger players and having to switch multiple positions on defense. So when he was tasked to defend Cousins and Davis, it wasn’t as foreign to him as it may be for other NBA rookies getting their first taste of defending in that way.

With an increasing number of basketball players choosing to forgo extended stints at the college level, Hart is one of three Lakers rookies who spent at least three years in college. The other two are Kyle Kuzma and Alex Caruso.

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