“Dangerous” Lakers Make It Close, Hope For the Same Tonight

Amazingly, the LA Lakers kept last night’s game against the cross-court rival LA Clippers much closer than expected, and in the final 30 seconds, were within a point of a tie. But, despite the late heroics of Jeremy Lin, who finally shined in his new forum blue and gold garb, Kobe Bryant missed three of four shots in the final three minutes, including a three point attempt that could have tied the game, and the Clippers won their second straight close game against opponents against whom they should have had their way. The Clippers ended with a seven-point win, due to converting six of six free throws over the last 21 seconds, but the game was a battle throughout the fourth quarter.

Third in last season’s MVP voting, the guy who added the “Dangerous” moniker to the Lakers’ name, Blake Griffin, scored 39 points, and is starting the season with an assault

that could move him way up in those ranks by the season's end. Griffin put in eight of those points in the fourth quarter, including four-of-four from the line, and on the night hit on 11 of 12 attempts, a major improvement for the lifetime 53% free-throw shooter. Fixing that one clink in Griffin's game armor could well establish him as on member of the leagues' elite triumvirate, with guys named James and Durant.
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Chris Paul drew most of the duty guarding Kobe, and Bryant hit only six-of-15 for the game, right at his current season’s percentage of barely over 40%. He was also only one-of-five on three-point attempts, and is at 30% there, for the young season. The best player on the court for the Lakers was, however, Jordan Hill, who was hot on mid-range jumpers, and who led the team with 23 points on ten-of-15 shooting. Hill is also an excellent power forward, but he is playing out of position most of the time, being aked to play the part of a seven-foot center. If the Lakers had, oh, I don’t know, a Chris Kaman or even, heaven forbid, a D-eee Wight Howard, at center, and left Hill alone to play the two for 35-40 minutes a game, they’d have a real star.

The Lakers made the game close for most of the second half despite numerous players in foul trouble, including Ed Davis, who also has played very well overall, doing all that is asked of him. But, he cannot stay out of foul trouble, played much of last night’s game with five, and has now committed 16 personal fouls in 75 minutes on the court. Hill and Carlos Boozer also played much of the final quarter with five fouls, and Wesley Johnson fouled out with a little more than four minutes to play.

The most promising aspect of the game for the Lakers was their re-discovery, likely to the chagrin of coach Byron Scott, if you believe his public comments on the subject, of the three-point shot. The Lakers took 20 three-points, hitting on seven of them, though the

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only Laker to hit more than one was Lin, who hit three of his six attempts. This after the team hit on only seven of a measly 23 attempts over the first two games.

The 2-0 Clippers are off tonight. They play again at Staples tomorrow afternoon, facing Sacramento (1-1), who had a big upset win last night over Portland, behind Rudy Gay's NBA season's best 40 points, and another good performance from former Clippers' guard Darren Collison, who went 17, eight, and eight.

The 0-3 Lakers play in Oakland tonight, and a loss to the Warriors would give them their first 0-4 start since they played in the land of a thousand lakes, in 1957, when Jellybean Joe Bryant, Kobe’s dad, was three years old. Lakers’ announcers have been fawning over Klay Thompson since he entered the league, and never seem to miss an opportunity to mention the possibility of him moving south to LA at the expiration of his contract. Well, he and the Warriors have now agreed to a four-year extension, so Klay’s dad, radio color man Mychal, and the others calling games and giving the post-mortems, will have to find a new love interest.

As to the game itself, the Lakers are, without doubt, the worst team in the league defending against three-pointers, and in Thompson and point guard Stephen Curry, the Warriors and the two guys in the league who hit the most three-pointers last season. Between them, they hit 25 of 50 attempts, that’s 50%, against the Lakers last season. They might just equal that tonight.

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