It was anything but an expected result in the Staples Center on Wednesday, as the presumed Western Conference darling Los Angeles Clippers seemingly fell apart at the hands of their crosstown rival, the Los Angeles Lakers, in route to a 116-103 loss. The final score may have indicated a dominant Lakers win, but it was anything but that for the first 36+ minutes.
The Clippers opened the game with an offensive barrage, as they outscored the Lakers by a 30-28 margin in the opening frame. Newly-acquired shooting guard JJ Redick shot the lights out during the frame, starting 5-for-6 from the field and 2-for-2 from beyond the 3-point arc to finish the quarter with 12 points. In addition to that, center DeAndre Jordan had a stellar opening frame, as the oft-discussed big man went for 10 points and 4 rebounds.
However, the Lakers simply wouldn’t go away throughout the night. They fought to within 2 points at the half despite allowing 58.5% shooting by the “visiting” Clippers, and their 26-21 rebounding edge allowed LAL to attempt 9 more field goals during the half. All of the “hanging around” finally paid off, however, as the Lakers would finally make a decisive run during the 4th period.
After a mini-run (11-to-2) to take a 66-65 lead in the 3rd quarter, the Lakers bided their time until early in the 4th before utterly exploding. The bench absolutely carried the Lakers in the period, going on a 28-8 run over a 6-minute period, and with that, they extended their lead to an insurmountable margin of 108-91 without the benefit of a single point (or minute played) from a starter. The 17-point lead would be more than enough to allow the Lakers to cruise to victory, and they made a bit of a statement late in the game.
The Lakers bench was the unquestioned story for the winning team, as they featured 5 different players in double-figures. Former 1st-round pick Xavier Henry emerged from the dead with 22 points (on 8 for 13 shooting) in 26 minutes, while Jordan Farmar (16 points, 6 assists), Jodie Meeks (13 points, 3 threes), Jordan Hill (12 points, 8 rebounds), and Chris Kaman (10 points, 8 rebounds) chipped in significantly. It’s certainly unclear if this is (in any way) sustainable long-term for the admittedly short-handed Lakers, but finishing the game with a staggering 48 consecutive points from the bench is a nice start.
On the side of the Clippers, it was an ugly collapse. They were soundly out-rebounded (52 to 40) by a team that shouldn’t be able to do so, and the Clippers also allowed LAL to shoot 14 for 29 (48.3%) from three-point distance. The numbers were good for Blake Griffin (19 points) and DeAndre Jordan (17 points, 11 rebounds, 3 blocks), but the lack of depth up front was exposed, and the defensive effort lacked in a significant way here. Lastly, superstar point guard Chris Paul wasn’t exactly dismal (15 points, 11 assists, 6 rebounds, 5 steals), but any time a game gets away from a team in this fashion, the team leader receives at least a portion of the negative focus.
All in all, it is only one game (I REPEAT: IT IS ONLY ONE GAME), but hope is suddenly springing in Laker land while skepticism reigns with the Clippers franchise.