First Skirmish Goes to Clippers

The first skirmish in the 2012 Battle of LA is over, and the clear winner is…….. da Clippers.

The Lakers out-shot the Clippers overall, thanks primarily to Clippers’ bench players Randy Foye, Ryan Gomes, and ex-Laker Brain Cook shooting a combined 2 for 16. The Clippers, however, out rebounded the Lakers, shot better from behind the arc, generally played a more tenacious defense, and out-hustled the Lakers for the entire game, save for part of the third-quarter, when the Kobe-Bryant-led Lakers went on an eight minute rampage and briefly narrowed what was a double digit lead for almost the entire game.



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And in the end, Kobe’s fourth consecutive 40-point game was not nearly enough, as Chris Paul showed the Lakers why they were correct in being his primary pursuer, putting in 33, but more importantly, being the team leader that the Clippers have not had since, well, … ever. Not Blake Griffin last year, not Baron Davis, not Elton Brand, Ken Norman, Ron Harper, Gary Grant, or Randy Smith. But it is more than Paul, as the Clippers are now a team full of talented, experienced players, whose aim it is to win Los Angeles, win the Pacific Division, and make a mark in the playoffs. The additions of Chauncey Billups, Caron Butler, and Reggie Evans give the Clippers a nine-deep group that can complete with anyone in the NBA. The return of Eric Bledsoe will make them even deeper.

Great drafting gave them Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, and the excellent talent that they sent to New Orleans in order to acquire Paul. The future is now.

As to the Lakers, besides the grit and disdain for pain continually displayed by Kobe, the best thing that came out of last night’s game was the play of Darius Morris, in his new role backing up Derek Fisher while Steve Blake is out. Morris made some mistakes, but showed he has NBA point guard talent, and that he should be a competent bridge until Blake’s return.

Something else to consider regarding the Lakers’ second half play. It’s no secret that the Lakers are, as a group, far from being spring chickens. Add to that the effects of the lockout and lack of training time, and the further fact that no NBA team has already played more games than the Lakers. When they made their third quarter run to get within a couple of points, that was it. There was nothing there there, thereafter, and the lead quickly reverted to double digits. Are the Lakers already fatigued, as LA Times blogger Mark Medina has speculated?

Or, is it coaching? Remember, that’s Mike Brown, not Phil Jackson on the bench. Brown seems to still be using different combinations each game, and some of his personnel moves, and the manner in which he is using his personnel, are questionable (Remember our earlier posts on the second coming of Del Harris. Or of Randy Pfund).

For example, in the fourth quarter, announcers Bill McDonald and Stu Lantz were talking about getting scoring from someone besides Kobe, and then Jason Kapono entered the game, just for that purpose. For the four and a half minutes that Kapono played in the fourth quarter, he was never once set up for a single shot, and almost never even touched the ball.

Tomorrow, Lamar Odom returns to Staples, as the Lakers play Dallas, and then they go to visit the reeling Miami Heat. Think they’re tired now?

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