Below is a running diary of the Lakers’ Sunday afternoon “road” contest at the L.A. Clippers, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:
Lakers: Blake, Meeks, Bryant, Gasol and Howard
Clippers: C. Paul, W. Green, C. Butler, B. Griffin, D. Jordan
4:30 An entertaining first few minutes saw the Lakers open a 18-12 lead after Earl Clark, fresh off the bench, hit the third triple in as many chances for the visiting team, countering Chris Paul’s first triple on the other end. The Clippers had made only 3 of 13 shots to start the game.
0:00 But in the final three minutes, with Howard resting, the Clippers reeled off a 14-4 run, enough for a 30-25 lead out of the first quarter. Matt Barnes hit all three of his shots off the bench, and L.A.’s six turnovers were killers, leading to 11 points from the home team.
2:39 The Clippers pushed their lead to as many as nine points early in the quarter, getting continued production from former Laker Barnes (4 of 5 field gaols) and fellow sub Jamal Crawford (12 points on 4 of 6 field goals). But the Lakers came back behind Kobe Bryant’s passing (already nine assists) and Howard’s finishing (13 points) when the latter slammed home the former’s alley-oop in transition. Howard had made three straight free throws, and added another (the oop was plus the harm) to cut the lead to a single point.
0:00 Much like in the first quarter, the Lakers were bad to close the second, allowing a 7-1 run that turned what had been a 1-point game at 49-48 into a 56-49 Clippers lead at the break. This time it wasn’t turnovers – L.A. had only one in the second quarter after six in the first – but lack of awareness on defense, Howard and Gasol failing to clear some defensive boards (10 second chance points for LAC in the 2nd) or recognize cutters.
8:05 And it got no better to start the third quarter, the Lakers allowing a 13-6 run in the first four minutes as the Clips hit 6 of 9 shots, Caron Butler scoring five points and capping a 5-0 run with a triple into a Mike D’Antoni time out. The deficit was 14 at 69-55, the Lakers in trouble.
0:00 And there they’d stay after three periods, staring at a 12-point deficit heading into the fourth quarter. They had a chance to cut it to seven when Steve Blake had a look at an open three in the corner, but he missed, and CP3 beat the buzzer with a jumper after the 12th offensive rebound for his team.
6:00 Chris Paul’s averages in three previous games vs. LAL this season: 24.0 points, 13.7 assists, 4.3 rebounds, 2.3 steals. After hitting a shot in the paint halfway through the fourth, he had 19 points, nine assists and five boards with two steals, keeping the Clips up 12 points. Without a massive turnaround, the Lakers would have to rely on Golden State to beat Utah in Oakland.
4:01 Five straight Kobe points came at the foul line, cutting the lead back to 10 after it had swelled to 15 behind more offensive rebounding from the Clippers (up 15-8 in that category and 45-32 overall on the glass). More Bryant scoring (12 of his 25 in the fourth) came, but the Clippers were getting more CP3, up to 21 and 11 to spark a quick 4-0 run that restored a 14-point margin.
0:00 Howard had not failed to grab at least 10 rebounds since the last time the Lakers played the Clippers, the game before the All-Star break, but he had only four in this one. He had done a good job helping on dribble penetration, notching four blocks, but had been outdone by both DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin, who combined for 25 boards. The glass was a differentiating factor in this one, LAC owning a 50-36 edge in what turned out to be a 109-95 loss for the Lakers. Bryant played all but the final 50-odd seconds towards 25 points, 10 assists and seven boards, Howard had 25 points (9 of 13 free throws) and Gasol 12 points, 13 boards and eight assists, but it wasn’t enough.
Before a Tuesday-Wednesday back-to-back with New Orleans (home) and Portland (road), the Lakers will closely watch Utah, who go to Golden State later on Sunday. A win would put them back into the eight spot ahead of the Lakers, a loss keeping them in ninth.