Lakers/Clippers: Battle Of L.A. 2012, Part 3

Rey Moralde —  April 4, 2012

Box Score: Lakers 113, Clippers 108
Offensive Efficiency: Lakers 121.5, Clippers 116.1
True Shooting %: Lakers 63.1%, Clippers 54.3%

You can call it a rivalry if you want. But a lot was definitely on the line. Who was going to get a stranglehold on the Pacific Division? The Lakers had won three straight (albeit against weak competition) coming into this game while the Clippers had won six straight, their longest since 1992. Well…

The Good:
Cool beans. Kobe Bryant.

I like the Kobe Bryant of April 2012. Doesn’t try to do too much. He lets the game come to him. He lets the other guys do most of the work. And he only strikes when needed. And, boy, did they need his strike today. His last jumper with Randy Foye draped all over him put them up 4 with 24 seconds left. His line was also efficiency personified. 31-5-6. 13/19 shooting. Only 2 turnovers. That was magnificent. It hit me hard; made me lose my breath.

Andrew Bynum just beat up the Clipper frontline on the offensive end all day. There were times where you can still see him loaf around on defense but I will take his 36 points from 13/20 shooting seven days of the week. It’s like he got the star from Super Mario Brothers; no Clipper could touch him, much less defend him.

Ramon Sessions had a pretty good all-around game, too. He continues to pad the stat sheet with 16 points, 6 boards, 8 assists, and 2 steals. His basket where he tapped on DeAndre Jordan with 47 seconds left was a huge basket as well. Chris Paul had a fantastic game himself but Sessions did his best to keep up. This performance is certainly better than what you’re going to get from previous Laker point guards.

Metta World Peace should also get props for taking on CP3 late when Lakers got caught with a switch on Paul. That little wrinkle prevented the Clippers from doing further damage. MWP also made some key baskets (and that key steal from Paul!) that stopped runs from the Clips. He has come up big this season in terms of making big plays, whether it’s a 3-pointer or a stop.

I also like that they played a relatively clean game on the offensive end. They didn’t get their first turnover until the second quarter and they only ended up with 11.

Big, big win by the Lakers. Clips can have all the highlights that they want but, in the end, it’s about winning. One of the more satisfying Laker victories in this up-and-down season.

The Bad:
Stop switching.

Chris Paul made life hell for the Lakers when he would get the bigs to switch on him. Leaving Paul with either Pau Gasol or Bynum in an island is not the ideal situation for the Lakers. Paul made them pay in those few minutes he got the desired switch. Luckily, Metta recognized it and took on Paul himself down the stretch.

The defense continues to regress for the Lakers. 108 points scored tonight by the Clippers. The Lakers didn’t play intense defense until late in the game. It would’ve been nice if they could force more than 10 turnovers. They certainly couldn’t stop the Clippers in transition. That let the Clippers back into the game. Losing big leads have become a Laker signature as they once again played it down to the wire. Maybe the Lakers should propose to cut the games down to three or even two quarters so that they don’t lose big leads like this.

None of the Lakers got double digits in rebounds (Bynum led the team with 8). The Clippers outrebounded them, 46-44… but killed them on offensive boards, 18-12 (Blake Griffin had 7 offensive boards). Box out, gentlemen. It’s good for your game.

It’s difficult when someone like Caron Butler is making contested shots. But that doesn’t mean you should leave him open also. Butler went off for 28 points (didn’t score in the 4th, though, because Vinny Del Negro chose to sit him out longer than he should… but check out Clipper blogs if you want to break THAT down). Even if he’s making shots, make life difficult for him.

The Ugly:
I didn’t think it was possible for someone to die twice… but Pau Gasol got killed by two Blake Griffin dunks today. The first one was a putback smash in the first quarter and the second one was in the third quarter where Blake just absolutely hammered the manhood out of him. Pau tried his best to play it off like it didn’t bother him but he was really never the same after the second plastering. Gasol was, for the most part, a non-factor with 12 points. Though he had a nice block late in the game (THANKS, JODIAL!).

The Play Of The Game:
I told you. That Kobe shot. I couldn’t even do that on a video game. Well, except maybe if you play AS Kobe in NBA2K12 or NBA Courtside.

Also, Bynum getting the ball under the basket at the end of the 3rd… only for him to back up to the 3-point line and shoot from behind the arc? Hilarious. That would’ve been easily THE play of the game if he made it.

The Lakers are now 2 1/2 games up on the Clippers. It really should be 3 1/2 because they also own the tiebreaker by virtue of winning this game as they win the season series, 2-1. I really do hope they face each other at some point in the playoffs because this game was undoubtedly fun. Right now, I’m going to enjoy this win and not worry about any upcoming drama or games for the next 24 hours. Or few minutes.

If you want to worry about the next Laker game NOW, they’ve got Houston at Staples next. Houston beat them the last time they faced each other. Yeah, the same game where Bynum got ejected and gave high-fives to the people there after the ejection. Now that the Lakers have won four in a row, I’m sure expectations have been tempered once again? Yes? No?

In the meantime, I’ll just enjoy this win. And you should, too. Enjoy it like you just received your very first video game console.

Rey Moralde