Clippers-Lakers Running Diary

Wait a second – something seems different here at STAPLES Center?

I’m on the opposite side of the floor … purple and gold has changed to red and blue … hmmm. Oh, Lakers road game. In L.A. Got it.

Your starters:
Lakers: Fish, Kobe, Vladi, Gasol and Bynum
Clippers: Baron Davis, Cuttino Mobley, Al Thornton, Tim Thomas and Chris Kaman

Your inactives:
Lakers – DJ Mbenga, Sun Yue
Clippers – Marcus Camby, DeAndre Jordan

The key name there is Camby, among the league’s top defensive players, whom the Clippers stole from Denver because the Nugs didn’t want to pay him. Out with an injury, Camby won’t be in there to try and slow down Pau Gasol, who has barely missed a shot through the preseason and L.A.’s opening stomping of the Blazers last night.

Check out Baron’s words to the fans on the mic at midcourt: “This here’s going to be a different Clippers team … just wait and see.”

OK. Not in the first minute though … Gasol flipped in a pretty half hook from the baseline on possession one, and Bynum dropped a free-throw line extended jumper to make it 4-0. Tim Thomas pushed back with a layup before a driving Kobe found Fish wide open for a three. Swish, and a 7-2 Lakers’ lead.

In other news, the Clippers have a full dance team, and some kind of performance team featuring male cheerleaders, which means there are like 96 entertainers on the floor at times. They might as well invite a few zoo animals, maybe some props…

I’m thinking that Bynum’s going to have a nice game tonight. Last night, when he managed just eight points and three boards in 28 minutes, it seemed like he was pressing a bit … and that shouldn’t be a surprise. It was his first game since January that mattered, and all he’s been hearing all offseason is that he’s the key to L.A.’s potential championship this season. As such, he wasn’t able to relax and just let it flow against Portland. But tonight the spotlight’s off him to an extent … though we’ll be watching.

As it were, Bynum put back a Gasol miss, then drew a foul on the next possession to give him six points in the first seven minutes. Like it.

After the Lakers opened up a nine-point lead, Baron Davis began to bring the Clips back mostly by swiping his hands at Kobe and not getting called for it, leading to six points in transition. At least one of those had to be a foul, but the refs are letting things go thus far. Don’t call me presumptuous when I guess that this didn’t please Kobe, and he’s definitely going to score on the next possession.

OK, I was wrong. Bryant scored the next four points. 22-17, Lakers. Mamba.

Davis just crossed Vladi over and banked in a jumper just because he can. Though that play couldn’t have been more different from my favorite BD play ever, do you remember this UCLA behind-the-back jam?

OK, with the Lakers up 24-20 at another TV timeout, here are five (premature) NBA takes from the opening two nights:

1) The Lakers are about as talented as the Oceans 11 cast, and just as likely to steal something (from the Boston Celtics).
2) Portland is overrated, at least for this season. Come on everybody, they went 23-28 to finish the year last season. Let’s cool that down.
3) Jermaine O’Neal is a great fit in Toronto. He put 17 points and eight boards on Philly on the road, and helped draw defensive attention off Chris Bosh, who was superb with 27 and 11.
4) Spencer Hawes, my used-to-be-fantasy-sleeper-that-now-has-been-seen-by-everyone-before-one-of-my-drafts went off for 12 points, 14 boards and six blocks in a loss to Minnesota. Speaking of the Wolves, they’re going to win at least 37 games after only getting 22 last season.
5) No. 5 pick Kevin Love will be considerably more productive per capita than No. 3 pick O.J. Mayo, for whom Love was traded on draft day. What I mean by per capita is, production per minute, both in terms of points/assists/boards etc. and also efficiency. Example: Love scored 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting, grabbed nine boards, blocked two shots, dished two dimes and notched a steal in only 19 minutes. Mayo took 20 shots in 40 minutes in a loss to Houston, making only five of them. He missed all seven threes, grabbed five boards, and notched two assists and two steals. Only one game … I know. But those aren’t surprising numbers.

Big Laker momentum swing right at the quarter’s close as Trevor Ariza – who’d just missed an acrobatic alley-oop attempt – nailed a three at the buzzer to put L.A. up 30-27.

Second Quarter
Your second quarter lineup is all subs except Gasol: Odom, Ariza, Farmar and Vujacic. The Clips have Thomas on the floor with four subs of their own: Ricky Davis, Jason Hart, Brian Skinner and Steve Nowak. Advantage = Lakers. Choosing between these two second teams based on talent is like choosing between McDonalds and Mortons. Will the score reflect the talent?

Farmar and Gasol hit back-to-back jumpers to make it 36-33 Lakers before Vujacic drew an offensive foul from newly-entered Eric Gordon, the draft’s No. 7 pick out of Indiana. Sasha doubled up his effort by canning a three on the other end, before a Farmar rebound and push up the floor resulted in a hammer dunk from Ariza off the baseline. There’s that talent, coming through in a 9-0 run.

Wow. Fantastic offensive play by Farmar to give L.A. a 10-point lead. After Ariza snatched an offensive board from high off the glass and kicked to Jordan, the backup PG passed up an open three to slide into the lane and set the table expertly for a Bynum jam. All Bynum had to do was pull in his chair at the dinner table, because Farmar had already cut his meat, put salt/pepper/butter on his mashed potatoes and hucked his corn. 43-33 purple.

There’s Jordan again, this time with a transition three from the top of the key … And there’s Ariza again with a three of his own. Who knew that Baron Davis would only be the third most notable game-changer from UCLA on the court tonight?

As if the Lakers starters – with Luke Walton in for Vlad – weren’t good enough, how unfair is it for opponents to have to go against Kobe, Pau and Bynum after the second unit runs up a double-digit lead? Yikes. Funny that it’d be Walton – right now the team’s 10th man – that sparked the starters to a 54-38 lead by hitting a pretty leaner in the lane, then finding Fish on the break for a triple. All L.A. this quarter. The Lakers, that is, in case you haven’t been paying attention (which is fine … I currently have four NBA Gamecasts, two emails, instant messenger and Youtube running, so feel free to distract yourself as well).

Boy did the Clippers need that three from Ricky Davis (if you listened to Clippers play-by-play man Brian Sieman in our Gameday preview today, you know he’s been lights out from three this preseason) but Fish responded right away with a hoop. On opposite day, the Lakers struggle to create offense and shut the defensive door, which we know because the Lakers held the Clips to 17 points in the second quarter while producing 29 themselves. Lakers by 15, 59-44.

Third Quarter
It’s way too early in the season to start declaring games over at halftime, right? Well … if the Clippers were planning on coming back in the second half, letting the Lakers score eight of the first ten points of the period wasn’t the best idea. Kobe’s hungry for some red meat. Bynum wants some steak. Gasol could use a turkey burger. Fish prefers ham. Vlad’s in search of some veal. The bench … K I can’t think of any other meats right now. Oh wait … salami. The bench wants a spicy Italian. It’s 66-46, by the way.

Even as they build the lead, L.A. continues to lock down defensively. Bynum just swatted Tim Thomas a minute ago. Vladi locked down Al Thornton. Kobe’s all up on the glass. I’m trying to find something negative to say right now to avoid sounding like Turtle talking about Vince, but it’s tough. Pau’s and-1 just made it a 23-point lead.

Ouch. Bynum and Thomas just banged heads as the youngster swiped the ball away from T^2, leading to an Odom hoop at the other end. By the way, Bynum’s been quite dominant in the paint tonight, corralling another board for his ninth of the evening. Back to Odom – since entering, he’s already scored twice and grabbed two boards, but it was Bryant who put L.A. up 30 for the first time of the evening. But again, let’s focus on the Lakers’ defensive effort, which hasn’t allowed anything inside 15 feet all quarter, resulting in … wait for it … still building … six points in the period in eight minutes. Even the Clips male cheerleaders are struggling to prop the lil’ Clip girls up on one hand in the air – you know what I mean, like they do in college. The big dude props the little pixie up with both of her feet on one of his big paws. Yeah, one of ‘em almost got dropped.

Big MVP chant for Kobe after two more FT makes give him 14 points, and the Lakers an 82-50 lead. By the way, Kobe’s still in the game. So is Gasol. Probably not for too much longer though? Right?

Numbers:
3 – More blocks from Andrew Bynum, who also has 12 points and was a force in the lane.
11 – Point-threshold not broken by any Clippers player, as Thomas, Mobley and Davis all have 11.
15 – Points for Derek Fisher to lead the Lakers, including three three-pointers.
17 – More points scored by the Lakers’ bench (27) than that of the home team.
26 – Combined rebounds through three quarters from Bynum (9), Gasol (9) and Bryant (8). As a team, the Lakers are dominating on the glass 40-26.
36.7 – Clippers shooting percentage (22-of-60).
50.0 – Lakers shooting percentage (30-of-60).
100 – Percent chance this game was way over at halftime.

Fourth Quarter
Time for Sasha, Lamar, Farmar, Ariza and Mihm to shut it down.

OK guys, I didn’t say expand the lead even further – but Vujacic wasn’t listening with consecutive behind-the-back passes on the fastbreak resulting in four quick points. Odom then piled on with a gorgeous behind-the-back dime of his own to a waiting Mihm, and the score was 101-66. The Lakers certainly aren’t messing around this season, are they?

K Lamar’s out with Ariza, and Josh Powell’s in for the first time along with Walton. Meanwhile, the crowd has erupted into rival chants … Clippers fans are chanting: “Clippers suck!” while Laker fans opt for “Let’s go Lakers.” Funny to hear in this context, with L.A. now leading 105-70.

While nearly every Laker has been good tonight, Powell’s decided to join the party by immediately drawing a foul on Thornton – who couldn’t box out the top-notch offensive rebounder – and hitting both free throws. I think trainer Gary Vitti would be productive right now, and know for a fact that Brian Shaw could come in and get some productive run.

Play of the game alert: Walton just tossed an entirely perfect alley that was ooped with authority by a backup PG with a 43-inch vertical. Sportscenter should have it shortly. Walton hooked Farmar up with another gorgeous feed a minute later, this time on a sneaky backdoor cut from Jordan. Meanwhile, Chris Mihm’s racked up 10 points and two boards in seven minutes, and it’s 115-77.

A few things that have been closer contests than this game: the San Diego Chargers vs. Fairfax High School (mythical scrimmage); the L.A. Sparks vs. a fifth grade AAU team; the L.A. Galaxy vs. the guys I saw kicking a ball around on Venice Beach last weekend. Shall I go on? No? OK.

Just to emphasize one more time that the Lakers are 100 percent serious about destroying folks this season, Farmar found a trailing JPowell for a one-handed hammer dunk in transition. Your final: 117-79 Lakers.

That’ll do.