Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Monday evening preseason contest against the Clippers, the first live basketball we’ve seen at STAPLES Center since May, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:
Lakers: Blake, Bryant, Barnes, Gasol & Bynum
Clippers: Chris Paul, Chauncey Billups, Caron Butler, Blake Griffin & DeAndre Jordan
6:32 A pull-up jumper from Bryant put L.A. up 18-14 early in the first, with the Lakers hitting an efficient 7-of-12 (58.3%) to start off the preseason. Kobe had exactly half of those 18 points, moving just as well as advertised on his feeling strong legs.
5:00 An early injury note: Steve Blake, starting in Derek Fisher’s (resting) absence, looked to tweak his left ankle/knee as Chris Paul ran directly into Blake, who’d planted the leg. He played through it for a few minutes, but eventually went to the bench to see trainer Gary Vitti.
3:00 Well, newly-signed backup big Josh McRoberts couldn’t have started much better in Los Angeles. First came a defensive board, then a hammer dunk off Kobe’s alley-oop, then a pretty extra pass that got Gasol a dunk, and put the Lakers up 24-22. The quarter would end in a 28-all tie, courtesy of the third shot-clock-beating-but-maybe-not-advisable Darius Morris jumpers.
9:30 And it’s already time for our second McRoberts comment, as he took exactly six minutes to start winning over the savvy LAL crowd. Extra work on the glass got Jason Kapono an open three (swish, from the guy who holds 6th place on the NBA’s all-time 3-point % list) and another extra possession off a heady steal.
3:45 The Clips built their biggest lead at 48-41 thanks to a 7-0 run capped by an off-glass alley-oop from Billups to previously-quiet Blake Griffin (who started 1-for-5 with Gasol’s length bugging him). We certainly saw some defensive breakdowns from L.A., still learning Mike Brown’s system. In other news, an FYI: there’s a new tweak to the shot clock this year, which includes tenths of a second once clock hits 10.
0:00 Some off-ball fouls once the Clips were in the bonus hurt LAL late, allowing the “road” team to build a 55-50 lead going into halftime. One first half takeaway for L.A.: Kobe’s 10 trips to the
8:30 The second triple of the quarter from Billups, with one more than Kobe’s 18 points, put the Clips up 68-60. It came moments after Gasol’s 4th PF, drawn on a flop by Griffin, after the Spaniard had hit a triple (as hinted to in camp) and threw down an alley-oop from Blake.
6:39 Nothing quiets STAPLES like a potential Kobe injury, as we heard a collective gasp when No. 24 landed real hard for the second time. He got up a bit more slowly than the first, holding his right wrist, used to brace the fall. Yet he seemed OK while knocking down an and-1 jumper on the next trip down. That was L.A.’s only bucket during a 12-2 run, however, allowing the Clips a 75-62 lead.
2:31 With World Peace and four new Lakers (Morris, Kapono, McRoberts and Murphy) on the floor, Paul and Billups had their way dissecting a disorganized defense. Billups, claimed off waivers after being amnestied by the Knicks, and Paul sure looked primed to show what they had to offer, combining for 40 points, including 5-of-8 triples, helping build a 20-point lead.
9:43 Signs that we’re in the preseason: L.A.’s shots were being created by Darius Morris, Kapono and Metta World Peace, while something called Marcus Hubbard was scoring for the Clips to make it 96-69. In the regular season, the only Lakers creating shots on the perimeter will be Bryant, Fisher and Blake, all of whom know what the coaches want executed.
6:00 Looking to get something positive going with regulars, Brown put Blake, Kobe and Gasol back in next to Ebanks (in for Metta World Peace, who was 0-for-8) and McRoberts, and got a nice cutting reverse layup and a corner three from Ebanks after two defensive stops.
2:45 Bryant’s 14th and 15th FT attempts of the game went down to get him to 22 points on the evening. Many questioned on Twitter why Kobe was still in the game, so, an answer: coaches can’t just pull guys to avoid injuries when a regular season game is less than a week away. Kobe only played 29 minutes, fewer than he’ll almost ever play once the games count. The game ended after two more Clippers threes gave ‘em 13 for the game, producing a 114-95 final score. Things really turned in that third quarter, when Paul and Billups made their statement and outscored L.A. 36-17, nailing 6-of-7 threes to take control.
The same two teams will be back here on Wednesday for a Clippers home game.