Lakers

Josh Hart leads Lakers to victory over Clippers in season finale

LOS ANGELES — The Lakers and Clippers had one final run before hanging the “Gone Fishing” sign on Staples Center. Meaningless games are now the norm for the Lakers, who missed the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season, but something new for the Clippers.

Neither team looked as it was intended, with the Lakers playing without injured regulars Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma and Isaiah Thomas and the Clippers going without Patrick Beverley, Avery Bradley, Jawun Evans, Danilo Gallinari, Milos Teodosic and Lou Williams.

The game barely resembled NBA basketball, a ragged 48-minute finale.

By night’s end, the injury-depleted Lakers defeated the injury-depleted Clippers 115-100. The Lakers ended their season with a 35-47 record, the most victories they’ve had since they won 45 in 2012-13, which also was the last time they advanced to the playoffs.

The Clippers finished with a 42-40 record, their fewest wins in a full 82-game season since going 32-50 in 2010-11, the season before Chris Paul landed in their laps instead of the Lakers’ because of “basketball reasons,” in the immortal words of then-commissioner David Stern.

The Clippers’ streak of consecutive playoff appearances ended at six.

Both teams believe they’re trending in the right direction, though.

The Lakers are ascending because of Ball, Ingram, Kuzma and other young players.

The Clippers are rebuilding without falling to pieces after trading Paul and Blake Griffin.

What happens next is anyone’s guess.

The NBA draft lottery is May 15. The draft is June 21. Free agency begins July 1.

It’s highly likely each team will look far different when 2018-19 training camps being next fall.

The Lakers and Clippers hardly resembled the teams that began 2017-18, when Ball got a rude welcome to the NBA from Beverley and the Lakers were no match for their hallway rivals in a season-opening 108-92 beatdown back on Oct. 19. Ball had only three points on 1-for-6 shooting.

Ball was unavailable to play Wednesday because of a sore left knee.

Beverley has been sidelined since undergoing right knee surgery Nov. 22.

Andre Ingram, the Lakers’ feel-good story, kept the crowd enthralled with his every dribble, pass and shot. He scored five points one night after making his NBA debut and scoring 19 points after spending 10 seasons in the G-League, including this one.

Williams, the Clippers’ feel-good story, couldn’t play because of a sprained right ankle that sidelined him for the final two games. Williams led the Clippers with averages of 22.6 points and 5.3 assists and is a mortal lock to be named the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year.

Josh Hart scored a career-high 30 points to lead the Lakers, who led almost from start to finish. Hart made 9 of 15 shots, including 7 of 9 from 3-point range. The Lakers, who were 17 of 39 from beyond the arc, led almost from start to finish, including by as many as 22 points in the third quarter.

Tobias Harris led the Clippers with 23 points. DeAndre Jordan scored six points and grabbed nine rebounds in what could be his final game with the only team for which he has played during his 10-season career. He can opt out of his contract this summer, although there’s been no indication he will.

Jordan needed one double-double to tie Elton Brand for the franchise record with 265.

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