Lakers 91, Clippers 102: Running Diary

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We took a look at the Lakers – Clippers contest at STAPLES Center while it was happening, entering a thought or three each quarter as the Lakers looked for their fifth straight win.

Inactives
Lakers: Luke Walton
Clippers: Blake Griffin, Kareem Rush, Brian Skinner

Starters
Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Artest, Odom* and Bynum
Clippers: Baron Davis, Eric Gordon, Rasual Butler, Marcus Camby, Chris Kaman
*Odom got the nod as Pau Gasol missed his second full game after straining his left hamstring in L.A.’s Sunday evening victory over Dallas.

Gasol Getting Better
The most interesting pregame information out of the Lakers’ locker room was that Pau Gasol and his hamstring went through shootaround without pain. To be exact, here’s Phil Jackson’s quote: “He worked pain-free today, so that’s nice to know.” There’s no timetable for his return, but the Spaniard is listed as “day-to-day” with a moderate strain.

59232741First Quarter
10:28 You know when baseball players sometimes try to motion hits into fair territory with their bodies (Carlton Fisk in the playoffs would be the obvious example)? Well, Lamar Odom did so for a three-pointer. But it was even better, because the ball was spinning around the rim, which meant Odom was moving his hips around as if he had a hula hoop on. The triple also halted a 6-0 Clippers run to start the game.

4:38 A positive sign for the Lakers: Ron Artest nailed his second straight three-pointer, a nice development since his shooting touch hadn’t returned in his first game back (3-for-11 against Houston on Tuesday) from a five-game hiatus (concussion).

1:17 Andrew Bynum’s slam, thanks to a pretty pass from Odom, was his third of the quarter. Throw in a tip-in, and he led the Lakers with eight points in a 26-25 advantage.

Second Quarter
9:22 Two battles going on tonight: the basketball contest … and the crowd contest. Clippers and Lakers fans seemed to enjoy seeing who could be louder when respective teams performed well, the volume reaching its highest point when Kobe Bryant up-faked two Clips defenders and dropped a fallaway jumper off glass to bring L.A.* within two.
*This abbreviation always refers to the Lakers. At least on Lakers.com.

2:48 Can’t use the “He must love playing at home!” line for Baron Davis, since he plays for the Clips and all. But the L.A. native had an excellent all-around start to the game, notching seven first quarter assists, twice stripping Lakers players and blocking Shannon Brown’s perimeter shot before finishing at the rim (six points) moments later. His layup put the Clips up 47-42, and his aggressive play dictated that of his team throughout the half.

0.04 The Lakers can generally make up for a poor shooting half (34.1 percent in this one) with a special effort from Bryant, but Kobe was the biggest field goal miss culprit with a 3-for-13 effort, including a miss at the buzzer that allowed the Clippers a 52-43 lead at the break.

59233459Third Quarter
8:00 Struggling from the perimeter, Bryant went straight to the basket for consecutive dunks, the first an alley-oop from Odom and the second a breakaway two-hander after his steal.

5:55 Those flushes appeared to ignite Kobe’s perimeter game, as he pulled up from distance on three consecutive possessions, including a three-pointer and an and-1. All three went down, giving him 27 points and cutting the Clips lead to 10. Moments later, Shannon Brown nailed a three-pointer to cap an 8-0 Lakers run that cut the lead to just four.

0:29.0 Chris Kaman took a contested 20-foot jump shot, Bynum’s hand in his face, and the ball clanked high off the front rim … before bouncing in about two seconds later. The J followed a Davis’ make to give the Clips the last four points of the quarter, and a 79-73 lead heading into the final quarter.

Fourth Quarter
9:55 Bynum, Jordan Farmar and Artest scored back-to-back-to-back buckets to tie the game in just over two minutes, sans Kobe. And we officially had a “Battle for L.A. Basketball” … at least for one regular season game.

6:07 Shannon Brown and Farmar continued to provide a solid bench boost in the first half of the fourth quarter, though the Clips managed a 4-0 run into a timeout to lead 87-83. That would bring Bryant back into the game as the Lakers looked to steal a game they’d trailed almost throughout.

2:55 Craig Smith, a.k.a. the Rhino, scored on 2-of-3 possessions to put the Clippers back in control, holding a 94-85 lead. He got his name from Kevin McHale when McHale was the Wolves’ GM and Smith a rookie, for his charging drives to the hoop. Does this interest you? He’s from Inglewood and went to Fairfax High, if that helps. Alas, the Lakers would get no closer as the Clippers finally snapped a nine-game losing streak to the purple and gold.

The Lakers have a chance to break a long losing streak of their own – eight straight losses at Portland – on Friday night.

Until then, your numbers:

POSTGAME NUMBERS
2 The biggest lead of the ball game for the Lakers, which came in the first quarter.

15 Points off the bench from Shannon Brown, who played well after Derek Fisher struggled to 1-for-3 shooting and four turnovers in 20 minutes. Also Andrew Bynum’s point total, coupled with 14 rebounds for the center’s first double-double since November.

16 More rebounds for Lamar Odom, who’s on a rebounding binge of late. In fact, Odom has double-digit boards in seven straight games, averaging 14.1 per contest.

17 Kobe Bryant’s point total in the third quarter, helping L.A. knock four points of the Clippers’ 10-point halftime advantage. Bryant finished with a game-high 33 points, but needed 30 shots to get there.

20 Advantage in points in the paint for the Clippers (54-34), in likely the stat of the game. It’s quite rare to see the Lakers outscored by even a point in the paint, let alone 20, but the Clips were the aggressors throughout the evening.

38.4 Lakers shooting percentage on the evening, to 46.0 percent from the Clippers.