So earlier today we predicted a Lakers’ loss in Minnesota. While the Lakers got off to a big early lead that at one point grew to 29 points, they then did their best to make theHoundDawg look good, letting the Timberwolves get as close as four measly points, but in the end LA prevailed by 11, winning 111 to 100.
Though it seemed that the Lakers’ defense and sharpshooting were responsible for the wire-to-wire win, especially with a first period total of 37 points, it was really the difference at the free throw line that provided the margin of victory. LA was an amazing – for them – 21 of 25, of course helped by the absence of Deee-Wight Howard. Conversely, the ‘Wolves shot only 18 free throw, making only eight a dismal 44%.
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|Kobe returned to the “New” Kobe, taking only 13 shots, making only four, but pulling down 12 boards to go with eight assists. But the clutch play came from Pau Gasol who played a great game in his return to the stating lineup, hitting tough shots at key times, and finishing with 22 points and a dozen boards.
The Lakers do, however, remain on track for the 3-4 or at best 4-3 road trip we predicted.
The Clippers, however, playing again without Chris Paul and tonight also without Matt Barnes, stunk up the Toronto arena as has seldom been seen in recent
memory, losing to the new-look Raptors by 25. Newly acquired Rudy Gay scored 20 off the bench, but the real story was a porous Clippers’ defense letting fringe journeyman John Lucas score 17 points, including five-of-seven threes. In the five season over the last eight years that Lucas has gotten into NBA games, I could likely count on the fingers of one hand the number of times he’s scored more than a point or three above his career average of five points per game.
Clippers’ strengths that led them to their top spot in the Pacific Division were clearly missing. No Chris Paul of course, but also no intense team defense, and only 24 bench points (to 42 for Toronto – a deficit that we seldom see in a Clippers’ game) all contributed to their fifth loss over the last seven games.
The Clippers now trail San Antonio by three games for the race for the best record in the league and that home court advantage in the playoffs. The Lakers are still three and a half games from the final playoff spot.