We’ll be logging each minute on the court right here on the BasketBlog … Remember that you can hit your browsers’ refresh (or reload) button to get the latest entry. Check back after tip to follow along…
Inactives for tonight:
Lakers – DJ Mbenga, Sun Yue
Clippers – DeAndre Jordan, Steve Novak
Lakers Starters: Fish, Kobe, Vladi, Pau and Bynum
Clips: Baron Davis, Cuttino Mobley, Al Thornton, Marcus Camby and Chris Kaman
The Lakers have been vaunted for their second-best-in-the-league defense heading into Wednesday evening’s game, but one couldn’t tell in the first seven minutes of action against the Clippers.
Before the game, Phil Jackson talked about how Mike Dunleavy would draw something up to counter what the Lakers had done to blow the Clips out in last Wednesday’s 38-point drubbing, and apparently it worked. Behind 10 points from Baron Davis – including two triples – the Clips scored 21 points before a timeout near the five-minute mark … Of course, that didn’t mean the red shirts were playing any defense either, allowing the Lakers to score 18 points of their own, including two threes from Fisher and one from Radmanovic. Bryant was unusually aggressive in taking five shots, while on the other end Andrew Bynum grabbed every shot the Clippers didn’t hit (seven boards). Perhaps the point is that if your defense isn’t working, you’d better be scoring … and the Lakers certainly weren’t having trouble with that.
The highlight of the quarter came after a Bynum offensive rebound resulted in an emphatic flush that left Chris Kaman looking like he’d just been dumped by his 8th grade girlfriend in the middle of the lunch room. Pretty fierce. Highlight No. 2 also came courtesy of Bynum, when he swatted Tim Thomas’s shot near the rim with an angry extension of his right hand, preserving a 27-27 tie with 1:20 remaining. By the way, if you’re watching on TV or can catch some highlights after the game, keep an eye on how the Lakers pack the lane defensively. Sure, that may result in a few open perimeter jumpers, but opponents are barely getting anything near the rim unless it’s in transition. Alas, Thornton’s jumper after an ill-advised Jordan Farmar pass gave the Clips a two-point edge heading into the second quarter.
When the Lakers pounded the Clippers last week, it was the second unit of the yellow and gold* that ignited the 117-79 final. Will we see more of the same tonight?
Lamar Odom thought so as he dominated the opening stanza, his all-around ability inspiring a 6-0 run after Bynum grabbed his 10th board (he also had three first quarter blocks) after a Sasha Vujacic three rimmed out, which the big man stuck right back in to make it 36-30. Odom offered a beautiful pass in transition, a solid swat on defense, a driving hoop near the bucket and even some good perimeter defense. Yet it was the Lakers team defense – helped in part by BD’s place on the bench – that allowed for the run, as the Clippers scored just three points in the opening six minutes of the quarter. Yet L.A.’s offense stalled after its run as well, giving the home team just a 37-33 mark when Kobe and Pau checked back in at the 6:00 mark. In other news, STAPLES Center features a McDonalds in the concourse and some Chicken Selects with buffalo sauce would really hit the spot. I say this because Kobe used to eat McDonalds before every game early in his career. Seriously.
*Check that, Beto
Something off-the-ball that you should know if you’re not watching for yourself: Many of us are trained to watch the ball during a game just like the play-by-play announcer, and I’m often a big culprit. But you can learn more about what’s going on by paying attention to movement off the ball, which is what any NBA scout will tell you. Do this while Trevor Ariza’s in the game, and you’ll quickly notice that he’s fantastic cutting to the hoop particularly on the baseline, which has already produced two dunks and two free throws for the UCLA kid tonight. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have Gasol pick you out with feeds that you’d have to eat even after two-hour stint at Fogo de Chao (with your card turned green).
Bryant, with 10 points in the half, will have to do a bit of second-half work to climb from his sixth spot on the NBA scoring charts, since the previous No. 5, Tony Parker, exploded for 55 points on 36 shots in a double OT win at Minnesota tonight. Snap. Amare Stoudemire should be entering the top group as well after posting this monster fantasy line: 49 points on 17-of-21 shooting with 15-of-15 from the stripe, 11 boards, six assists, four steals and two blocks. I digress, and while digressing, watched the Clips go on a quick 7-0 run to take a 47-44 lead at the 47.2 second mark of the period. A Kobe technical FT preceded a Tim Thomas dunk and then … Oh what an answer from Bryant, who got busy on four Clips in the lane with a powerful hammer dunk.
He, however, was answered by a gorgeous Thornton layup that put the Clips up 51-47 at the break. To draw something away from the half, if I may: the Clippers have a chance to be pretty good this season…
The two L.A. squads traded blows for the first seven minutes of the quarter before a play that didn’t have much affect on the scoreboard, but perhaps influenced the psyche of the game: With the Clips up 63-61, Davis found Brian Skinner all alone beneath the hoop as the Lakers had stacked one side of the floor, but Skinner somehow missed an uncontested dunk that sent the Lakers the other way. What ensued was a quick 6-0 run capped by a Vladi three that made it 67-63.
At the time, it seemed as if the Lakers were ready to switch into sixth gear in a Ferrari, but Al Thornton made them look more like a (collective) Honda Civic* by nailing a terribly difficult turnaround J from 20 feet, and subsequently drawing a charge from Odom.
*OK, that car metaphor was a stretch. My bad.
Now, if that turnaround J were terribly difficult, Ariza’s reverse, put-back jam off Kobe’s miss near the hoop was fantastically difficult (we’re assuming that fantastically difficult is more difficult than terribly difficult, OK?). Ariza came back to earth by missing 1-of-2 free throws (after missing 3-of-4 in the first half), but the Lakers still managed to turn a four-point deficit at half into a four-point lead after three.
Tonight, Bynum has been to the glass what David Hasselhoff has been to German women (or at least Mitch Buchanan). His fifth offensive board of the evening (14th overall) allowed Vujacic the chance to make up for a three-point miss on the second possession of the fourth quarter. Going against his shoot-first nature (uh huh), Vujacic put it right back up and canned it for a 75-68 lead. That, however, was answered with a 8-2 Clippers run to make things interesting yet again at the 8:52 mark of the fourth.
Celeb Update: Tonight’s Hollywood Nights Jumbotron tour included: The Game, Joe Walsh (from the Eagles, obviously), Kate Hudson, Jack Black, Will Ferrell and Jack. What a shocker that Ferrell put on a “I-can’t-believe-I’m-on-the-Jumbotron-oh-my-god” face that had the crowd laughing for a good 15 seconds. On that note, the crowd’s been fantastic in the second half, and clearly given the home team some extra energy.
Meanwhile, the Clips took the lead back on a Mobley three-pointer from the wing, only to have it stolen back by two Odom free throws. He missed one, the 10th clank of the night for the Lakers and a major reason why the game was so tight to that point.
And then the Lakers went absolutely freaking crazy on offense…
Let’s start here detailing it here: The next four FTs from Farmar and Kobe were all twine, pushing to a four-point lead that became six on a gorgeous, silky lil’ spin move and finish at the goal from Farmar with 6:11 remaining. Now, when you want a big shot, you can always go to Kobe … Or Fish. The latter nailed a contested bomb of significance right in the face of Baron Davis to finally give the Lakers some breathing room at the 4:50 mark, as the lead extended to 91-81. If someone I didn’t like were on a dunk tank platform filled with dirty water, I’d want Fisher throwing the ball.
The run continued as Odom and Bryant buried the game moments later when Lamar tipped in a gorgeous Kobe spin-move on one possession, and Bryant hit two more free throws (26 points) on the next to make it 95-81. See ya. Or, if you needed it, Lamar’s triple from the corner was the actual dagger just a possession later. That’s 15 points, eight boards, three steals and two blocks in 26 minutes off the pine from Odom, who will celebrate his birthday tomorrow.
For those keeping track, that’s a 22-0 run. Even though I talked only about offense there, L.A.’s locking down of the paint was phenomenal during that stretch.
Other than that (decent) run, here’s a good stat for you:
Stat of the Night: Andrew Bynum’s 17 rebounds, tying a career high, couldn’t have made Phil Jackson happier.
We’ll have much more shortly on Lakers.com.