Clarkson leads Lakers to second straight win

LOS ANGELES — After Jordan Clarkson drove the lane and made a layup late in the fourth quarter, he picked his knees up high as he strutted away from the play. The basket gave the Los Angeles Lakers their biggest lead of the game, and all but guaranteed a 127-107 win over the New York Knicks on Sunday afternoon at Staples Center.

The shot have Clarkson his 29th point, which was a game-high. He added 10 assists, six rebounds and three steals. It was his second consecutive strong performance after tallying 33 points, seven assists and seven rebounds Friday against the Indiana Pacers.

“He’s one of, if not the, best pure scorer we have,” Larry Nance Jr. said of Clarkson.

Julius Randle scored 27 points and added 12 rebounds and five assists. Kyle Kuzma contributed 15 points.

Clarkson said his increase in production may be coming from an increase in minutes, and not necessarily a heightened focus on scoring.

“I feel like I kinda had the same mindset off the jump,” Clarkson said. “Just getting more time on the court, finding players. Everything is just slowing down.”

The Lakers took a 120-103 after Clarkson’s layup with 3:29 left in the fourth quarter, capping 10-0 run that put the game away. Head coach Luke Walton said Clarkson’s confidence has been high in the last two games.

“I think tonight was more of a carry over,” Walton said. “I think he’s feeling pretty good about himself right now offensively because struggling defensively in the first half. So I don’t think he used that to find his offense tonight. He’s obviously a very gifted offensive player, and I think he’s feeling pretty good about himself right now.”

Brandon Ingram, who returned Sunday after missing Friday’s game with an ankle injury, said he is not sure what has gotten into Clarkson the past two games.

“He’s had a better focus coming in,” Ingram said. “The coaches have a lot of confidence in him to do what he does, which is to score the basketball. He’s been doing a lot of other things — on the defensive end, sharing the basketball, rebounding the basketball and being in the right spots. He’s been really good lately just having a really good focus.”

Clarkson has combined for 17 assists and 13 rebounds in the last two games.

“It opens the game up for everybody on the floor,” Ingram said of Clarkson’s assists. “When he scores the ball like that, he’s drawing a lot of defenders out there. He’s making the easy pass — drop it with us, kick it to the outside or feed on the inside. It opens it up for the other players.”

The Knicks started the second half on a 7-2 run, making their first three shots. Walton pulled all five starters in response. Both teams exchanged 3-pointers until Corey Brewer’s with 4:10 remaining in the third gave the Lakers a 90-89 lead.

Los Angeles used a 10-0 run to take a 97-89 into the fourth quarter.

KEY RESERVES

The Lakers scored 76 points off the bench. Ingram provided an explanation for why the starters did not perform well.

“I think as professionals, they looked at the first group and I don’t think we were doing our job,” Ingram said. “The second group came in and did that. All of them had a winning mentality tonight and they were gonna do anything for it.”

NOTES

Knicks: Kristaps Porzingis was charged with a technical foul in the fourth quarter…Shot 48% from the 3-point line.

Lakers: Ball missed his fourth straight game with a swollen left knee…Kuzma jammed his right middle finger but continued to play…Won their fifth straight home game.

UP NEXT

Knicks: Play the Golden State Warriors on the road on Tuesday.

Lakers: Host the Boston Celtics on Tuesday.

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