Lakers 87, Clippers 86: Dec. 8 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Wednesday evening “road” game against the Clippers, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:

Starters
Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Artest, Odom and P. Gasol
Clippers: E. Bledsoe, E. Gordon, A. Aminu, B. Griffin and D. Jordan

FIRST QUARTER
10:00 It’s always a bit odd to watch the Lakers play in their own arena as the road team, particularly with the overload of purple and gold jerseys standing out amidst the bevy of Clippers’ red throughout STAPLES Center. On the court itself, it was all Lakers to open, with Artest nailing an open three, Bryant converting a tough and-1 over Gordon and Odom adding an and-1 of his own. L.O. missed the free throw, however, the early lead at 8-0.

2:49 Generally, Phil Jackson doesn’t like to have Gasol and rookie center Derrick Caracter in the game at the same time, preferring to use the few minutes he gives Caracter to spell Gasol. However, Jackson chose to give Odom an early break this time, sliding Gasol into the high post, and the rookie was an immediate beneficiary of the Spaniard’s passing as he hit 1-of-2 free throws to put the Lakers up 20-12.

0:00 And then the offense stopped. L.A. missed five straight shots to close the quarter with just a two-point lead, with Lakers not named “Kobe Bryant” making only 3-of-12 field goals. Bryant was 4-of-7 for nine points.

SECOND QUARTER
5:01 Luke Walton’s reverse layup made it 32-29 Lakers, and signified a change in Jackson’s rotation due to the left ankle sprain of Caracter in the first quarter. Both he and Matt Barnes could be expected to see more playing time in the paint in a game that had thus far featured really poor shooting from both teams (a combined 34 percent).

0:00 That stalled offense from the end of the first returned for the final moments of the second, the Lakers again failing to score a point amidst a 7-0 Clippers run that put the red and blue squad up 43-41 at the half.

Perhaps the best way to describe a relatively listless half from the Lakers is to understand the degree of mental fatigue of L.A.’s front court, forced to play with both Andrew Bynum and Theo Ratliff for most of the season. It wasn’t an issue during the first eight games when all were fresh, but the fact that Gasol and Odom in particular had so much defensive responsibility without Bynum in particular has reared its head in the past two weeks. L.A.’s front court depth was obviously a major factor towards the two straight championships, and it literally hasn’t been there for 21 games in 2010-11. That said, Bynum has suggested that he could return in six days (Dec. 14) when the Lakers play at Washington.

THIRD QUARTER
10:00 When’s the last time you saw an NBA team miss three dunks in one minute? Well, the Clips just did it for ya, and Kobe scored five straight on the other end to make it a 46-43 lead for the Lakers.

5:40 Yet for the next five minutes, L.A. barely scored until two more Bryant free throws snapped a 13-1 Clippers run that put the home team up seven points. Griffin answered Bryant’s FT’s with just his third field goal of the game in 12 attempts, though Bryant came right back with a deep triple from one of his favorite spots, the left wing. The Lakers would need plenty more from No. 24, as the bigs continued to look fatigued.

0:00 Anyone in the mood for a major Shannon Brown scoring boost? Boy, did he respond, sinking the final 11 points of the third quarter for the Lakers as Bryant stood and cheered on the sideline. Most emphatically was an absurd buzzer-beating 57-footer that swished directly through the rim, coming just 13 seconds after Brown’s corner three and two minutes after No. 12′s first triple.

FOURTH QUARTER
10:55 The energy created by Brown to close the third carried right into the fourth, with Killer B ‘mates Barnes (a slashing banked hoop from Brown) and Blake (his first three of the night) combined to score five quick points, cutting the deficit to just one at 71-70.

6:00 The bench continued a solid effort, with Barnes reaching eight points with seven boards, and Jackson rewarded them with extra minutes before eventually putting Bryant and Fisher back in to close things out. After Fisher cut LAC’s lead to one, Griffin got to the hoop for a deuce and Gordon buried a three off a Ryan Gomes’ offensive rebound to quickly push the lead back to six at 83-77.

0:00.1 Wow, what a stretch of basketball from the Lakers after a sluggish 46 minutes. How about an 8-2 run to close the game, featuring two tough buckets from Bryant, a big jumper from a struggling-all-game Gasol, two huge defensive steals on back-to-back possessions, and finally a driving, game-winning layup from Derek Fisher. More details: L.A. had gone up 85-84 when Bryant dropped his second straight J thanks to Artest’s second swipe, but the Clips answered with a dunk from DeAndre Jordan with 15 seconds remaining. Gordon then took the Clips foul to give with three seconds left, allowing L.A. enough time to execute a play in which Bryant drew all of the attention on the strong side, only to feed Fisher for the layup on the weak side as time expired. With the win, the Lakers improve to 16-6 on the season heading into a six-game road trip.