LeBron James drives

LeBron 4th Quarter Masterclass Rallies Lakers to Comeback Over Clippers

Trailing by 19 points entering the 4th quarter and by 21 just a possession into the period, it would have been easy to count the Lakers out. The Clippers had successfully snuffed out every other run they'd tried to make to that point, and the team's collective energy read more like a group who had been thwarted one too many times to rally back to make a game of it, much less win outright.

LeBron James, however, had other ideas.

Rather than fold, in that fateful final frame James put his team on his back, outscoring the Clippers 19 to 16 all by himself to lead his team to an improbable comeback in the final regular season matchup these teams will play as co-habitants of the same home arena. The rest of the Lakers joined the party in those final 12 minutes to make it a true team effort, scoring 20 points of their own and making countless winning plays to turn what looked like a certain defeat into a 116-112 victory in one of the best games of the season thus far.

James, of course, was the story and his overall play and shot making (13 of 21 from the field, seven of 12 from three) was simply brilliant. His 34 points paced the team, but it was the rest of his game, from the way he controlled possessions and made all the right passes offensively when the Clippers started to blitz him to his defensive effort both individually and in his rotations on the back line that were just as big to turning this game back in his team's favor.

For most of the 2nd half -- and all of the 4th quarter -- James took on the assignment of defending Kawhi Leonard and did a wonderful job of making him work for position and contesting his shots once he did get the gall. James denied passing angles, pushed Leonard further out on the floor, pressured his handle, and just made everything a bit more difficult for Leonard who scored 26 points in the game overall, but just six in the final period (and four of those coming in the final few possessions).

James forced a critical turnover by deflecting a pass and knocking it off of Leonard in the midst of the Lakers comeback and then, on the Clippers final offensive possession, LeBron did well to contest a potential game-tying jumper that fell short, allowing the Lakers to escape with the victory.

In the wake of a such a great win and a fantastic individual LeBron performance, the rest of the team's performances should not get short shrift. Anthony Davis was wonderful overall, scoring 20 points to go along with 12 rebounds, two assists, two steals, and three blocks on the night. Davis picked up two fouls in the 1st quarter, but did well to avoid picking up another one the rest of the night while impacting the glass and the defensive paint.

While the box score won't show it, Davis was great in the 4th quarter, operating most as a screen setter and off-ball operator offensively. Playing pick-and-roll with LeBron to generate switches that allowed Bron to isolate at the top of the key, Davis camped out around the paint and grabbed two critical offensive rebounds on back-to-back possessions to keep the Lakers comeback alive and then give them the lead.

On the first, AD grabbed his team's miss, drew a foul, and then calmly went to the line to sink two free throws that tied the game at 106. And then a possession later, his offensive board and kick-out created the sequence that ended with a Rui Hachimura three off one of LeBron's eight assists that put the Lakers up for good.

Beyond LeBron and AD, the Lakers other three starters of Rui (17), Austin Reaves (13), and D'Angelo Russell (18) all scored in double figures, with each making important plays that helped win the Lakers this game. Rui not only hit that huge three, but had a beautiful reverse layup after attacking a closeout to put the Lakers up by five just a possession later to keep the momentum going in the Lakers favor.

Russell, meanwhile, scored eight points in the 4th quarter, including knocking down both his three pointers, the last of which was a catch-and-shoot dagger where he never lowered the ball after receiving the pass and instead went right into his shooting motion to put the Lakers up six with just over a minute to go.

Beyond the starters, the reserve group that played the first half of the 4th quarter were also major in the game turning the way that it did. The trio of Jaxson Hayes, Cam Reddish, and Taurean Prince picked up the pace defensively and helped speed the Clippers up to force turnovers and get the Lakers the stops they needed to get back into the game. Hayes -- with his blitzing of the ball at the point of attack -- and Reddish -- with his defensive range and efforts in transition to be disruptive -- were especially impactful in complementing the push LeBron was making offensively.

Overall, then, this was a great team win where the team's resiliency and togetherness allowed them to not just get back into the game, but come out on top at the end. The Lakers will now try to carry this momentum into the 2nd night of a back-to-back when the Wizards visit Los Angeles on Thursday night.