Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Thursday evening contest against the Clippers, the final game before the All-Star break, 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, Clark and Howard
Clippers: C. Paul, C. Billups, C. Butler, B. Griffin, D. Jordan
7:27 It was about as bad a start as possible for LAL, who missed their first 7 shots (5 wide open looks) & had 3 turnovers. The Clippers took advantage for an early 10-0 lead, all five field goals being scored by Blake Griffin, leading to a time out. Not what the home team had in mind.
5:00 L.A. finally got some shots to fall, with Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant both hitting consecutive field goals, but the Clippers had yet to slow down on offense, up to 20 points on 10 of 17 field goals, for an early 12-point lead. The Lakers were already missing Pau Gasol, usually effective on Griffin thanks to his length, as Blake went on to hit four more shots to reach 9 of 10 in the quarter.
0:00 Behind Griffin’s 18 points, the Clippers held a 31-17 lead, hitting 58 percent from the field to L.A.’s 33.3 percent. Hurting most were wide-open misses from three-point territory, the Lakers going 0 for 8, which really killed ‘em early. The Clips made 3 of their 7 attempts from downtown, but it was Griffin who really hurt L.A.
7:38 The bench of the Clippers is among the league’s most vaunted, and for good reason this season. But it was the LAL crew of Steve Blake, Jodie Meeks and Antawn Jamison with starters Earl Clark and Metta World Peace that went off to start the second quarter, as LAC’s 14-point lead was trimmed to only three when Jamison hit his fourth field goal of the first four minutes. The run was 14-3 for the visitors, with Nash and Bryant getting set to check back in.
2:10 Jamison stayed hot, reaching 15 points – 13 in the quarter – by hitting the first Lakers’ triple of the evening, off Kobe’s fourth assist. Bryant was up to 12 points after hitting four free throws, the Clippers holding onto a 52-47 lead after two free throws from Chris Paul (Nash thought the call was ridiculous) and another from Chauncey Billups (a technical on Jamison).
0:00 For the Lakers, a very ill-timed 11-0 LAC run pushed that lead right back to 14, the same number from which the second unit had trimmed all the way down to two. Billups and Paul did all the damage, including draining back-to-back three-pointers, in a run that took only a few seconds more than one minute. L.A. helped them out with turnovers, as Howard, Bryant and Nash struggled to get in sync. L.A. did manage five straight free throws as a quick answer to trim the lead back to nine, but Matt Barnes hit the seventh LAC three of the half in 15 attempts (LAL were just 1 for 10) to make it 64-52 at the break.
8:22 The starters allowed a 15-0 Clippers run to start the game, and a 14-6 burst to start the third quarter, resulting in these horrendous plus/minus numbers: Kobe -29, Howard -27, Nash -24, MWP -20, Clark -18. They turned it over four times in the first three minutes, conceding four more threes from the Clippers, who ran out to a 78-58 lead, shooting 52.4 percent from three (11 of 21) including 5 of 7 from Billups.
0:00 The long jump shots continued to fall at a ridiculous rate, with Butler adding his third, and Paul his second and third in the final minutes, CP3 beating the buzzer despite being contested by Blake, for the 14th make in 27 attempts (a ridiculous 51.9 percent from three). LAC had 101 points despite scoring only 26 in the paint, nailing jumpers from everywhere. L.A. actually started to score the ball late in the period, Meeks even converting a 4-point play, yet the deficit was 21 thanks to all the long Clips heaves. The Lakers had seven turnovers in the period, not helping themselves.
6:35 It had been a very quiet evening for Howard, who didn’t have his legs on either end, and even as he dunked a Bryant alley-oop in transition home, he barely got off the ground. The Clips still led by 20 at that point (110-90), having made seven of eight free throws in the period.
4:19 Bryant was the last starter to exit the game, leaving with 20 points, 11 assists and five boards, but also a game-high six turnovers (he’d argue that some came as he was fouled, thus earning a technical for arguing in the period) with the Clippers up 114-90 after Paul converted the T.
0:00 The final: Clippers 125, Lakers 101. A much-needed break starts now for the Lakers, 25-29 entering All-Star weekend, 3.5 games back of 8th place Houston. Howard and Bryant will play in Sunday’s All-Star game, while the next game is at home, on Feb. 20 against the Celtics. See you there.