Guys, I can’t comprehend this. And this is Opening Day!
Mostly picked by people (including me) to not make the postseason, the Los Angeles Lakers stunned one of the West favorites, the Los Angeles Clippers, 116-103.
It was already strange for me that the Lakers kept up with the Clippers in the first three quarters. Even when the Clippers went on that predictable run early in the third to go up, 63-55, the Lakers stayed close and took the lead after two Steve Blake threes.
Early in the game, I was pained by Steve Nash’s play. Nash is one of my favorite players of all-time but he looked slow and didn’t seem automatic with his beautiful shot anymore. He even got called for a double dribble violation.
But Pau Gasol’s play in the first half was quite pretty. He played better in this first half than seemingly all of last season. Pau showed it all from his hook shot to his feathery jumpshots that included a three-pointer. Gasol had 15 points and 13 boards in the contest.
The biggest surprise was the fourth quarter 41-point explosion by the Lakers. The Jordans (Farmar and Hill), Jodie Meeks, and Xavier Henry all played huge in the last 12 minutes (including defensively! WHAT?); the bench did so well that the starters never returned in the fourth. Xavier Henry led the way with 22 points, which, I’m sure, shocked everybody (hey, guys, let’s try to come up with a pun that has something to do with INSANITY!). Farmar’s confidence was never in question but his play on the court was excellent, going for 16 points and six assists. Jordan Hill snared seven of his eight rebounds on the offensive end and added 12 points. Even though Wesley Johnson took a lot of ill-advised shots, he made a big three that put the Lakers up eight. Meeks added 13 to the cause.
Repeat after me. Xavier Henry led the Lakers with 22 points. Eh?! And the Lakers bench had a whopping 76 points. Astonishing.
The Clippers looked comfortable… and then they got too comfortable. DeAndre Jordan (17 points and 11 rebounds) and Blake Griffin (19 points) jams were jarring as usual. Chris Paul was a wizard on setting his teammates up (11 assists) and J.J. Redick shot the lights out early (13 points). But the Lakers showed more tenacity and fed off a Staples Center crowd that got louder as the night went on. It felt like Mick Foley won the WWE title for the first time.
The Lakers aren’t going to go 14 for 29 behind the arc all the time. But that effort from the team is all we ever asked for. They outrebounded the Clippers, 52-40. And the 11 Laker players that played brought it and defended their house. If they keep giving that effort and determination, this team will be exponentially more fun than last season’s.
Yes, we didn’t give this squad much of a chance to make the postseason. But for tonight, the Lakers are undefeated. And tonight was an unbelievably fun night. One of the more memorable opening Laker games in recent memory.