By Can Erozden
ANKARA (AA) – Reigning NBA champions Los Angeles Lakers are at risk of losing out on direct playoff qualification following a 118-94 defeat to city rivals Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday evening.
Shooting guard Paul George led the scoring for the Clippers with 24 points, supported by Kawhi Leonard’s 15 points.
Five more Clippers players apart from Leonard and George also finished with double-digit points.
For the Lakers, who were without superstar LeBron James, small forward Kyle Kuzma racked up 25 points to end as the game’s highest scorer.
With 14 points, Montrezl Harrell was the only other Lakers player to enter double figures.
The defending champions suffered another setback as they lost star player Anthony Davis due to back spasms just nine minutes into the game.
The Clippers are already through to the playoffs but the Lakers, with 37 wins and 29 losses, find themselves in sixth place – the last direct qualification spot – in the Western Conference.
They are now tied for sixth with the Portland Trail Blazers, who also have 37 wins and 29 losses, while the Dallas Mavericks are a spot above with 38 victories and 28 defeats.
The Lakers and the Trail Blazers now face off in Oregon on Friday in a crucial showdown for both teams.
With just a few regular season games to go, the Lakers are staring at the possibility of being part of the play-in tournament, which is a new way for the league to determine the last two playoff teams from both conferences.
Once the regular season ends on May 16, the teams seeded seventh to 10th in each conference will battle for the last two playoff spots in a three-game play-in tournament starting May 18.
– Thursday's results:
Charlotte Hornets – Chicago Bulls: 99-120
Dallas Mavericks – Brooklyn Nets: 113-109
Toronto Raptors – Washington Wizards: 129-131 (Overtime)
Detroit Pistons – Memphis Grizzlies: 111-97
Indiana Pacers – Atlanta Hawks: 133-126
Golden State Warriors – Oklahoma City Thunder: 118-97
Los Angeles Clippers – Los Angeles Lakers: 118-94