As the final seconds ticked off the clock of the latest loss on the Los Angeles Lakers' resume, there was an altogether unsettling sound descending from the rafters of Staples Center.
Applause. Lots of it.
The Los Angeles Lakers lost to their crosstown rivals, the Los Angeles Clippers, for the first time in three seasons, by the final score of 102-91. And, in a game that is often labeled as a pseudo home game for the Purple and Gold, one has to admit that Clippers fans did themselves proud down the stretch.
So, how does a powerhouse like the Lakers lose to a lowlife like the Clippers? It's actually pretty simple.
Start with a poor shooting night from Kobe Bryant, who couldn't get on track early, and then tried to poor it on too much once the Lakers got down big. He ended up with 33 points, but it took him 30 shots to get there. Not his finest effort, and plenty of people will point at Kobe as the reason why the Lakers lost.
Then there's Derek Fisher, who got torched by Baron Davis all night long. Laker fans were clamoring for anybody not named Fish to be playing for every single minute of the game. Oh, and he managed to have more turnovers(4) than shot attempts(3), which says nothing of the fact that he only made one of those shots. So, let's all point to Derek as the cause for the loss, shall we?
But wait, what about Phil Jackson. PJ was the one that played with fire in the 1st half, running an offensively challenged lineup consisting of Farmar, Brown, Mbenga, Powell, and Artest, and getting away with it. So he tried an offensively challenged lineup in the 4th quarter as well, and he got burned. Jackson is the one who continued to allow Fisher to stay on the court even though it was apparent to everyone watching that Fisher's defense would lead to the Lakers' untimely demise. Surely, PJ is the one we can place this loss on, right?
Me, I'm pointing my blame finger in a completely different direction. I'm pointing it at the Clippers.
As it turns out, the Clippers aren't horrible. Plenty of people thought they'd contend for a playoff spot before Blake Griffin went down. As I mentioned in the preview, they've got some nice players. They've won 4 of 5 games, including wins against Boston and Portland (both injury depleted, but then again, so are we). And, when Baron Davis decides to buckle down and play smart, he is still as capable as almost any PG in the league. Which is exactly the Baron Davis that showed up tonight.
Tonight, BD played like the guy who is getting paid 8 figures. He didn't settle for long range shots. When he did settle, he drained the shots. He probed the offense time and time again. Sure, being guarded by Derek Fisher is liable to make anybody look good. But there are nights when BD needs no assistance in looking like quite a basketball player, and this was one of those nights. He did a good job of making shots as they presented themselves, but he did an even better job of finding open men near the basket when the Lakers showed on the pick and roll. And, I'm sorry, but the Clippers ball movement was pretty damned impressive, if you ask me. 28 assists on 40 baskets is no joke. I saw plenty of instances where the Clippers' quick interior passing would have troubled any defense.
Did the Lakers as a team (and Kobe as an individual) shoot poorly? Yes. Were they, as a team, (and Fisher as an individual) a step slow defensively? Yes. Could they have won the game if neither of those two things were true? Absolutely. But it's not a crime for the Lakers to lose to the Clippers. It's not embarrassing. The Lakers were on their 3rd game in 4 days, with a bench that barely stretches 7 deep at this point, and it showed. This is the reality of the Pau Gasol injury.
But, for once, appreciate that the Lakers' opponent simply played a good game, on the same night that the Lakers played a bad one. When it happens, the Lakers lose, simple as that. For one night, the Clippers were the better team. Doesn't mean the Lakers are screwed. Doesn't mean the Clippers are contenders. Doesn't tell you anything about the Lakers' postseason chances. One game is one game, and the Lakers do still have the best record in the league. At least until Friday night's game in Portland.
Postgame numbers are below.
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