All of us knew to whom this game meant more. The Clippers knew. The Lakers knew…but couldn’t they at least have faked it?! Most of the effort on the floor tonight was oozing out of the players in red, white and blue. The energy, the determination, the willingness to play the right way, was mostly all Clippers, and maybe there’s a simple explanation.
On the second night of a back-to-back, and their fourth game in five days, the Lakers looked lazy, tired and, frankly, almost apathetic in some moments. The Clippers, meanwhile, had two days off, looked fresh, ready and excited to be in this position – playing a game that actually mattered, that people were actually excited to see; a game against the Lakers where people didn’t expect them to lose. And they didn’t lose for all the reasons just listed. No third quarter surge from Kobe Bryant could defeat them. No stat rating that has them dead last in rebounding. This Clipper team was determined to follow their win against Miami with a win against the Lakers, and the Lakers were probably determined to just keep any more players from making it to the injury list.
Turnovers – Just 11 for the game, which is a big deal. Considering how often the Lakers have been giving up the ball, 11 is a good number, especially when they had 24 assists on 35 made field goals.
Lakers’ Third Quarter – At halftime, the Lakers were behind by 13, and at the end of the third, they were behind by just four points, thanks to Kobe Bryant’s 21 on 6-10 from the field. Bryant went just 3-12 for 11 points in the first half, flanked by white uniforms each time he had the ball in his hands. But he managed to get around or through the Clipper defense and led a surge that cut significantly into the lead. Bryant finished with another, 40+ game with 42 points on 14-28, seven rebounds, four assists, two steals and a block.
Also, after shooting just 37% in the first half, the Lakers managed to shoot 56% in the third quarter and allowed the Clippers just 39% shooting for their 21 points. Chris Paul, who played the entire 12 minutes, shot only 3-7 and handed out just a single assist. Whatever Derek Fisher and Darius Morris did to “contain” him, even just a little, it worked. And speaking of Morris…
Darius Morris – He did some good things tonight. Steve Blake being out is anything but good, but call it a blessing in disguise for rookie, Morris, who is getting a chance that former Laker coach, Phil Jackson probably would have never offered a first-year. Morris is a confident player, unafraid of this opportunity to excel. He was even a source of Coach Mike Brown’s technical after Morris was pushed by Blake Griffin as he went up for a dunk. Later, Morris received a technical for getting into a crowd of players who were fighting over the ball. Tonight he scored seven points on 2-3, including a corner three assisted by Kobe Bryant. He also had four assists. With Steve Blake’s 3-4 week absence, Morris will be getting some quality minutes and it already appears he’s taking advantage.
Kobe Bryant – Fourth game in a row with 40+ points deserves mention. 42 points again for Bryant
Effort – Maybe they’re tired, who knows? But the Lakers just did not look together in this game. Not until the third quarter did they even appear remotely interested in winning tonight. More specifically…
Rebounding – There is no excuse for the second best rebounding team in the NBA to be outrebounded by the WORST rebounding team in the league. None. Andrew Bynum had eight rebounds in the first half and Pau Gasol had five. All each player did in the second half was rebound just as much as they did in the first, so Bynum finished with 16 boards and Gasol had 10. The Clippers shot worse from the field but they had eight more attempts because they had 17 offensive rebounds compared to the Lakers’ 11. Rebounds = Effort, which is no surprise the Clippers won. They just, simply, put in more effort.
Pau Gasol – Gasol scored 14 points on 7-17. It wasn’t the most efficient game from him, and it’s not surprising since most of his shots came from beyond 15 feet. Even when Bynum wasn’t on the floor, Gasol continued to shoot jumper after jumper and missing a great deal of them. He’s so rarely in the paint these days, which is a negative for the team because that is where he does his best work. Gasol had just a couple of free throws last night, didn’t shoot any in tonight’s game, and it’s starting to look like he’s avoiding the paint on purpose. Gasol is a 75% shooter from the charity stripe yet he barely gives himself the opportunity get to the line and score some easy points.
Intensity – Five technical fouls were handed out in this game – four to Lakers and one to Blake Griffin. Things were definitely chippy, as has been the history between the two teams, but the officials, it must be said, were probably trying to control it too much. 48 fouls called, 55 free throws attempted and five technical fouls handed out. There was no flow to this game and the Lakers and Clippers weren’t the only ones to blame.
The Clippers were clearly more ready and more determined to win this game, which doesn’t bode well for the Lakers. No matter how badly a team is shooting, how questionable the officiating is, etc., there’s one factor that should be a constant and that’s effort. Effort should never be a stat that ebbs and flows. It should be the one thing that a team can depend on in every game.