Earl Clark defends Tiago Splitter during the Lakers' loss to the Spurs,… (Eric Gay / Associated Press )
SAN ANTONIO — A throw-in from the Dwight Howard trade finally threw his weight around.
Earl Clark had his first good game with the Lakers and maybe the only memorable one of his four-year NBA career, setting personal bests with 22 points and 13 rebounds in a 108-105 loss Wednesday to the San Antonio Spurs.
He was active and athletic, things the Lakers have missed throughout the season, and scored more points in one game than he had all season (14).
It was only the second career double-double for the former Phoenix Suns lottery pick (14th overall, Louisville, 2009) and it drew notice in the locker room.
"Don't be late for the bus," assistant coach Dan D'Antoni yelled to him after seeing a pool of reporters converging around his locker.
Clark got 27 minutes of playing time because three guys ahead of him on the depth chart were injured (Howard, Pau Gasol, Jordan Hill).
But maybe he cracked the rotation when they do return.
"Hopefully we found something there," said Coach Mike D'Antoni, who called Clark's game "phenomenal."
Was D'Antoni surprised?
"I hope he surprised me. Otherwise, I'm an idiot for not playing him," he said. "Anybody who plays that well deserves definitely a second, third, fourth look."
As the Spurs tried to put away the Lakers in the fourth quarter, Clark tipped in Metta World Peace's miss and scored on an acrobatic hang-in-the-air layup. His chance to be the hero ended when his desperation three-point attempt was off the mark as time expired. It would have forced overtime.
In the clip-and-save department, Clark had more points at halftime (nine) than Steve Nash or Kobe Bryant (eight each).
But can he be consistent like this?
"If I keep getting an opportunity to play and get some minutes, I don't see why not," he said after making nine of 12 shots, including the third three-pointer of his career. "Since I've been in the NBA, I've just been waiting for a consistent opportunity."
Clark, who makes $1.2 million this season, is a free agent in July.
Listed at 6 feet 10, Clark was the better of the two Lakers big men in Wednesday's lineup, easily outplaying rookie Robert Sacre.
After holding his own the previous night in Houston, Sacre wasn't as surprising against San Antonio, finishing with four points, two rebounds, four fouls and numerous fumbled entry passes in 25 minutes. He made only two of nine shots.
It was Clark's night to shine, undeniably.
"He sits in the seat right next to me on the plane and I talk to him a little bit. He always says he's ready to go and he definitely was," Bryant said. "He played phenomenal against a heck of a team with some great forwards. I'm just very, very impressed."