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Lakers 112, Clippers 104: Kaman? More Like Kam-Out!


In case anyone was wondering, Los Angeles still belongs to the Lakers. Tonight, with a 112 to 104 victory over the Clippers, they reminded errbody who's the anchor tenant at Staples Center and who's renting the attic above the garage on a month-to-month basis. It wasn't a flawless performance, but neither was the outcome ever much in doubt, as the champs led for all but about 40 seconds. The win, the Lakers' 14th in their last 15 games, is another step forward in their increasingly epic post-All Star break roll. The Clippers' loss, their 45th of the season, lacks any significance I'm able to discern.

Highlights aplenty were provided by Kobe Bryant, who turned in his finest performance since injuring his ankle a couple weeks back. With a swift first step and powerful moves into the lane, he scorched the Clips with 37 points on just 27 shots (including free-throw possessions). He took 12 free throws, making 10, in the second half alone, emblematic of a night in which the Lakers, boringly but effectively, bludgeoned the Clips at the stripe. Pau Gasol scored 26 points, meaning he'll be cutting a check for $26,000 to benefit Japanese earthquake and tsunami relief, as will Magic Johnson, who agreed earlier today to match Pau's pledge. Good work, gentlemen. If you'd like to make a similarly sized donation to "Fishmore's All Out of Doritos and Nattie Light" relief, I will reluctantly accept. With that kind of money, I could finally quit my day job wearing sandwich boards.

The Lakers had three days off since their triple-OT war of attrition against the Suns, and the rest served them well. Guys were getting good lift on their shots, soaring for rebounds and from time to time even playing a little defense. Of course, one Laker in particular has been off a lot longer than three days. Andrew Bynum finally got paroled from NBA jail after missing two games and rejoined the starting rotation this evening. His timing at the offensive end seemed a little funky, but he blocked three shots, fought hard on the glass and picked up 11 points. Facing a small Hornets front line on Sunday will no doubt help him get back into peak form.

As a team the Lakers were quite potent offensively. They scored 1.17 points per possession thanks to sharp midrange shooting and all the aforementioned free throws. Their 39 attempts from the stripe were just one off from their season high. All the heavy lifting was taken care of by the starters plus Lamar Odom. Steve Blake, Shannon Brown and Matt Barnes each looked out of sorts, and the Clippers' more successful stretches came when those dudes were on the floor. Shannon did, however, treat us to a sexy reverse dunk in the second quarter.

Ron Artest, as only he can, lent a jolt of excitement to the evening's events. After throwing down his own reverse jam in the second, he proceeded in hilarious fashion to miss two consecutive dunk attempts in the third period. It was a jocular moment but easily forgiven in light of Ron's other strong contributions. He scored 15 points, blocked three shots, pulled in three steals and consistently made a nuisance of himself on defense. I really love the way Ron's playing right now. His lateral and vertical mobility are as good as we've seen all season, he's shooting the ball well, and he's providing valuable energy to the starting unit. I no longer cringe reflexively when he lines up a three or attempts to put the ball on the deck en route to the paint.

The Clippers, for their part, got nice work from Mo Williams (30 points) and Blake Griffin (22). Crucially, though, Blake was completely shut out on the offensive glass. All six of his boards were at the defensive end. Eric Gordon (3 for 14) had a horrific night, and the Clips as a team struggled mightily with turnovers.

Things got a bit twisted in the last two minutes. First, with 1:25 on the clock and the Lakers up seven with the ball, Williams delivered a brutal, though unintentional, kung-fu chop to Kobe's face that went unwhistled. Gordon then converted a three-point play at the other end to bring the Clips within four. On the Lakers' next trip, DeAndre Jordan swatted away a Derek Fisher layup attempt, which started a fast break that could've cut the lead to two. But Ron came through with a clutchy defensive stop, burgling the ball from a driving Griffin. Then, back at the other end, the strangeness continued. Fish missed two straight freebies, but on the second miss Bynum tipped it in to put the champs up six. Although it was clearly offensive interference, the refs let it slide.

And still, more drama: after Williams missed a three with 29 seconds left, Chris Kaman started shit-talking Derek Fisher because... well, I'm not totally sure. Kaman had set a hard pick on Fish (fine), and Fish had made contact with him trying to come around it (whatever), and for some reason Kaman took umbrage and began barking. For his troubles he earned an ejection, a stoic stare-down from Fisher and mocking laughter from the Staples crowd. Great work, Chris. The game was richer for having lost you.

So, ten dates remain for the Lakers in the regular season. They're 1½ games ahead of the Mavericks and Celtics, half a game behind the Bulls and five behind the Spurs. After the Hornets on Sunday, they don't play again until Thursday night, when the Mavs come to town. That'll pretty much be a must-win for the Mavs, should they harbor any residual hopes of retaking the second seed in the West.











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Follow Dex on Twitter @dexterfishmore.

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