The contest between the tenants of Staples Center was a battle of two halves as the Los Angeles Lakers outlasted the L.A. Clippers, 88-85. Heading in opposite directions as the season draws to a close, the Lakers took advantage of a depleted and injury-plagued Clippers squad in the first half going into the break ahead, 54-44. The entire Lakers squad distributed the ball evenly as well as the scoring. The bench actually looked aggressive and on their way to pulling out of their recent scoring drought. But another second half lackluster performance by this same Bench Mob eventually led Phil Jackson to summons his entire starting line-up back into the game to secure the win.
The offense went south as soon as the 3rd quarter began as the Lakers managed to put up only 14 points. Fortunately for them, their defense limited the Clips to only 12 points in the period. The Lakers extended the lead to 19 points in the 4th quarter and seemed comfortably on their way to another rout of their roommates, but the Clips went on a 16-0 run to pull within 78-81. The crowd moaned as the tide turned, reminiscent of their poor performance against Philly. But unlike their loss against the 76ers, the Lakers made enough free throws and a key basket by Pau Gasol to seemingly seal the win.
Up by five points with only 10 seconds left in the game, rookie Eric Gordon (24 points, 8 rebounds) nailed a three pointer to pull the Clips to within a basket. Derek Fisher converted 1-of-2 free throws to put the Lakers up by three with 5 seconds left to play. Baron Davis freed himself of his defender after several moves behind the arc and launched a three pointer that narrowly missed banking in to tie the score. And the Lakers ran off the court narrowly escaping with the win. The Lakers were led by Lamar Odom with 18 points and 10 rebounds. Kobe Bryant also scored 18 points (5-15) and dished off for 5 assists. Gasol chipped in with 14 points and 9 rebounds and Trevor Ariza added 9 points, 6 rebounds and 3 steals. The Clippers were led by Gordon, followed by Zach Randolph with 18 points and 10 boards, Brian Skinner (with his paint brush beard) pulled down 13 rebounds, Baron Davis added 11 points and Fred Jones contributed 10 points.
The Lakers still trail Cleveland by one game, winners by 20 points over San Antonio earlier this afternoon. That the Lakers are still playing poorly and down to the level of their competition had Phil Jackson so irritated, that he refused to take questions from the media in the post-game session. We can analyze this squad and break down their play in search for a clue as to why they are so inconsistent, but one caller to the 570AM post-game show hosted by Money Smith may have summed it up best of all. He went on to say that the Lakers don’t have anything to play for right now. When Bynum went down, Odom and the team stepped up. When they were pitted against the beasts in the East, the Lakers took care of business. Now, with the #1 seed in the Western Conference all locked up, they are simply going through the motions until another challenge presents itself. If this Lakers squad can turn on the switch that easily, we have absolutely nothing to worry about. But as we all know, the playoffs offer no second opportunities. Either you advance or you’re on vacation. In the infamous words of Nick Van Exel, “it’s Cancun baby.”
dEDGE Post Scriptum
If you think we’ve got it bad, struggling right before the playoffs, mired in poor play and careless errors, battling for home court advantage throughout the playoffs and patiently awaiting the return of Andrew Bynum, take note of what other fans in the league are saying about their own teams.