Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Friday evening contest against the Clippers, a road game for the Lakers at Staples Center, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:
Lakers: Nash, Bryant, World Peace, Gasol and Howard
Clippers: C. Paul, W. Green, C. Butler, B. Griffin, D. Jordan
7:33 The Clippers had two early highlight alley-oops that helped create a 12-8 lead, but the good sign for the Lakers was excellent early activity from Dwight Howard, who hit three of his five shots, grabbed two boards and swatted Chris Paul after flying over from the weak side. Meanwhile, Metta World Peace was making his presence felt immediately upon returning to the starting line up, drawing the second foul on Blake Griffin at the 6:36 mark, moments after swatting him at the rim. It’s always good to have MWP on your side in a physical, chippy game, for which this battle for Los Angeles certainly qualified.
0:00 You could make an argument that the Lakers outplayed the Clippers in the first, but found themselves down 29-22 in part due to simply missing wide open shots (37.5 percent). They were 0 for 6 from three, Jodie Meeks missing all three of his attempts, and 4 of 8 at the free throw line (Howard 3 of 6), with four turnovers resulting in six Clipper points. CP3 had seven assists to three from Nash while playing the whole first quarter, and at the end of the period was on the floor with four former Lakers: Lamar Odom, Matt Barnes, Caron Butler and Ronny Turiaf.
7:39 LAC went on a 13-2 run to start the second quarter, L.A. continuing to miss wide open shots, and then play a bit deflated on the other end. Matt Barnes capped the run with a three-pointer, and even as Meeks snapped the run by finally getting a three to fall (L.A. 1 of 9), Eric Bledsoe answered with an and-1 on the other end to open an 18-point lead at 45-27. L.A. scored the next five points, but then allowed the second Barnes three.
2:28 Speaking of threes … the Lakers finally got a pair to fall, with Bryant and Nash draining back-to-back from distance to cut the lead to five, and then four, late in the quarter (a 16-3 run for the visitors trimmed what had been an 18-point lead). However, the Clippers had an answer, with both Jordan and Griffin scoring at the rim (Paul 11 assists), pushing the lead right back to double digits at 57-46.
0:00 Three straight Jordan Hill points gave him an impressive 12 points and five boards in only nine bench minutes, before Barnes and Bryant exchanged free throws that had L.A. within eight points. Paul, however, finished a great individual half with a pull-up jumper, towards 12 points, 11 assists and five boards, putting his team up 10.
8:30 L.A. started the quarter perfectly, going on a 7-0 push to cut the lead to just three points, forcing a Clippers time out. Yet out of the stoppage, the Clippers responded with a 9-0 run of its own, putting the visitors right back into a double-digit hole. Willie Green had the final five points, swishing two jumpers from the corner, this time forcing Mike D’Antoni’s time out. A deflating answer for LAL, indeed.
6:36 Howard got stripped in the paint, Butler getting a lot of the ball but apparently tweaking Howard’s shoulder in the process, forcing a 20-second time out. Howard did return to the court, however, L.A. trailing by 10 after Bryant reached 18 points with a jumper.
0:51.9 Paul, who’d barely sat out in this one, continued to kill the Lakers, this time with an and-1 around Darius Morris. He had 19 points, 12 dimes and five boards with two steals to push LAC’s lead to 18, matching the biggest margin of the game. Bryant drained a tough shot on the other end, but another Clips alley-oop made it an 87-71 lead after three.
3:42 Behind some fantastic shot making from Bryant, who was up to 34 points on 13 of 21, the Lakers again trimmed what had been pushed to a 19-point lead on Odom’s three to as few as seven with 5:09 on the clock. They’d had to expend quite a bit of energy to make it that tight, particularly Benjamin Button (err, Bryant), who’d played in 41 of the 45 minutes. Staying on the bench in the fourth was Gasol, who really struggled physically in this one, making only 1 of 6 shots with four boards and just not moving well. He has plantar fasciitis and knee tendinitis, and looked like it on this Friday night.
1:29 Improbably, the Lakers had suddenly cut the lead to only two, with a 6-0 run capped by Bryant’s tough pull-up jumper after a nasty crossover on Barnes. They couldn’t possibly pull it off, could they? Howard hit two free throws when being intentionally fouled, and Meeks hit two himself after a terrible foul from Bledsoe 90 feet away from his rim.
0:00 But that would be as close as they’d get, as Paul drew Howard’s sixth foul with a body bump near the rim and hit both free throws, then hit two more after Bryant missed a tough fading triple on the other end. Your final: Clippers 107, Lakers 102. Bryant finished with 38 points and five steals on 15 of 25 field goals, but it was ultimately Paul’s night, behind 30 points, 13 dimes and six boards in 41 minutes (three fewer than Bryant). The Lakers continue to show flashes, but continue to struggle to put full games together, with Howard, Nash and Bryant all alternately effective in this one but Gasol, MWP and Meeks all really struggling on offense. The latter trio hit only 5 of 25 shots, in a game L.A. still managed to shoot 46 percent. The Clips were more efficient, converting 50 percent despite Paul’s 11 of 25 field goals, with most every other guy going over 50 percent.
Up next is Denver at home on Sunday; we’ll see you there.