Gallinari gets 23, Clips hold off slumping Lakers 113-105

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Los Angeles Clippers are rolling toward a playoff berth, even after a thorough upheaval over the past two years.

LeBron James and the injury-riddled Los Angeles Lakers weren’t much of an obstacle when two teams going in opposite directions passed each other in the Staples Center hallway they share.

Danilo Gallinari scored 23 points, Lou Williams added 21 and the Clippers dealt another blow to the Lakers’ fading playoff hopes with a 113-105 victory Monday night.

“That doesn’t bother me or make me happy,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said of beating their fellow Angelenos. “I just want us to do well.”

The Clippers did splendidly, despite the odds against them. Although they have broken up their successful core and further stripped the roster with several recent trades, they’re still on target for a playoff return. Rivers dismissed the notion of tanking before the game, “I don’t know that word,” he said.

Los Angeles Clippers’ Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (C) looks to pass under the basket between Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James (2nd L) and Mike Muscala. – AP

Gallinari led six Clippers scoring in double figures while they comfortably maintained a lead over their co-tenants down the stretch of their latest rivalry meeting. James and his few healthy teammates never threatened late as the Clippers (37-29) took sole possession of seventh place in the Western Conference standings with their sixth win in eight games.

“This is a critical time to win games, and we’re locked in,” Williams said. “Tonight I felt particularly good about our focus.”

James scored 27 points and Rajon Rondo had his 32nd career triple-double, but the Lakers took their ninth loss in 12 games since they beat the Clippers on January 31.

While the Clippers’ playoff run is a pleasant surprise for their fans, the Lakers (30-34) dearly want to reach the postseason after a five-year absence.

Instead, the 16-time NBA champions have all but fallen apart in February and March. The Lakers are in 10th place in the West, sitting over five games behind San Antonio for the final playoff spot with 18 to play.

“You keep playing to the end and see what happens,” James said. “I’ve been talking about it for a while now. Everyone has been talking about the postseason, (but) we should be worried about each and every game and how we can continue to get better with our process and get better with our team.”

Two days after an embarrassing road loss to NBA-worst Phoenix put a huge dent in their playoff chances, the Lakers played without forward Brandon Ingram, who developed right shoulder soreness after the morning shootaround. Ingram had played in 50 straight games, averaging 18.3 points and 5.1 rebounds in a strong first season alongside James.