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Lakers 87, Clippers 86: Bow Before Derek Fisher's Intangibles!


Pop open the Derek Fisher greatest-hits mixtape and make room for another track. Sure, it was only the Clippers and the calendar says it's still just December, but Fisher's intangibles care not for your calendars, son! Whether it's a June night in Boston or a regular-season playdate with the Clips, Old Man Fish stands ready to rock your world whenever you least expect it. Tonight, it's safe to say, none of us expected it - not after 47 minutes and 57 seconds of the Lakers sucking out loud and Fish doing little to remind us he was even in the building. But those last three seconds... ahh, yes. That's when Fish grabs a game and makes it his.

With the Lakers trailing by a point and only a few ticks left on the clock, Fisher drove past the rookie Eric Bledsoe and scooped a layup high off the glass. The ball dropped through the cylinder just as the buzzer sounded, rescuing the purp and yellow from humiliating defeat. It completed a comeback victory that was every bit as ugly as the 87 to 86 final score would lead you to believe. Video of the bowel-loosening final play is after the jump. Please note: you will feel compelled to air-guitar when you watch it.

Incredibly, this wasn't the only miracle shot the Lakers needed to steal the W. At the end of the third quarter, Shannon Brown hit a 57-foot heave that in almost any other game would've been the top highlight. Without his Hail Mary the Lakers wouldn't have been in position to win on the final possession. Also, the Clippers missed three consecutive dunk attempts at one point. So yeah, the champs needed more than a little luck to survive tonight. That's OK. The victory still counts just as much as any other.

Having played a close game just last night, it's not surprising the Lakers were a tad sluggish. Somehow, though, "a tad sluggish" became "Did someone hypnotize these guys before the game, or perhaps administer large doses of industrial-grade painkillers?" The Lakers were awful this evening. And I mean awful.

The offense was the worst we've seen this year, and it's not even close. In 21 prior games this season the Lakers had never scored less than a point per possession. Tonight they barely managed 0.90 points per trip. Terrible shot-selection, errant passing, zero appetite to fight for offensive boards... this brief list of indictments just scratches the surface of what went wrong. Except for Shannon's burst of scoring at the end of the third and the last few possessions of the game, the Laker offense was one huge turd salad.

Especially turdacious was one Pau Gasol. The big man was a total mess. He struggled to handle passes, showed ghastly form on his shots, was slow on D and just looked badly out of tune. It might've been his worst game as a Laker. We all know about the heavy minutes he's had to play lately. The frontcourt depth got even worse when Derrick Caracter departed the game in the first quarter with a left ankle sprain, leaving literally no one to relieve Pau at the center pozishe. He had to go 40 minutes after logging 43 yesterday, and the fatigue showed. He really needs Andrew Bynum to return to game action soon.

What little scoring the Lakers were able to scrape together came in fits and spurts. Kobe Bryant scored 10 in the third period and 24 for the game. He and Shannon were the only semi-dependable offensive options. Lamar Odom was uninvolved in the attack, failing to reach double-digits in points and pulling in zero offensive rebounds. Ron Artest jacked up some really unsexy shots, scoring only five points on 10 attempts. As a team the Lakers had no offensive rebounds in the second half.

Lamar and Ron did, however, both contribute crucially on D. They took turns guarding Blake Griffin and held the presumptive Rookie of the Year pretty well in check. Griffin scored 16 points but needed 20 shots (including free-throw possessions) and managed only one offensive board. And Ron came up with a pair of game-saving steals in the final minute of play, both times pilfering from Eric Gordon. Gordon was easily the Clips' most potent scorer. After a quiet first half, he went at the Laker D aggressively in the second and finished with 24 points. But in addition to coughing it up twice down the stretch, he missed a free throw with 1:14 left that would've changed how the endgame unfolded.

How wacky was tonight's game? The Lakers won despite having the lower offensive efficiency of the two teams. Per possession the Lakers scored 0.906 points to the Clippers' 0.915. It's only because the champs had two more possessions that they managed to pull it out. "Whoever has the ball last wins" was literally true in this one.

So the Lakers survive their near-death experience and move their record to 16-6. They're now 3-1 on the second nights of back-to-backs. On tap next is a six-game road trip starting Friday in Chicago (though technically the road trip began tonight). That gives Phil two days to get Gasol right, and it gives Fish two days to replenish his supply of game-winning intangibles.











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