John Ireland was interviewing Derek Fisher after the game as an excited group of teammates lingered behind him. Assistant coach, Brian Shaw, stood in the background with the biggest smile on his face and his arms in the air. Steve Blake, on his way off the court, couldn’t help but stop to place a hand on either side of Fisher’s shoulders, giving him a little shake before he continued on his way. Matt Barnes walked by next, but not before he placed both hands over Fisher’s ears and kissed the back of his captain’s head. On Fisher’s way to the locker room, Kobe Bryant got up from his seat, wearing headphones and talking into a mic, to give his most trusted confidante a quick handshake and embrace. Fisher had done it…again.
The Lakers attacked early in this game, getting to an 8-0 start with a quickness, but the Clippers woke up with 9:16 left in the first and ended the quarter just two points shy of tying, 20-18. Other than the Lakers’ sputtering offense, the team faced yet another unfortunate circumstance when Kobe Bryant fell on Derrick Caracter and the rookie reportedly turned his ankle. He had to sit out the rest of the game which meant the Lakers were yet another center down.
With the third back-up to the center position out, hopefully for just this game, Luke Walton’s number was called and Ron Artest logged on more minutes than he’d been getting lately, sometimes playing at the power forward position when necessary. The Lakers needed every able body to win this game and Artest did not disappoint.
The third quarter saw an aggressive Kobe Bryant (24 points on 9-15, four assists), who seems to pop up when he senses his team needs an offensive surge. First, Bryant hit the technical free throw, then he finger rolled the ball into the hoop, and then he followed that with a jumper off the glass. After that, the Lakers underwent a drought, unable to score for almost two minutes. They got behind by as many as nine points after Blake Griffin’s dunk (16 points on 6-17, 11 rebounds), but then Shannon Brown happened. Brown hit two consecutive three pointers to bring the Lakers back to within six. His second three came from a half-court heave at the buzzer.
Capitalizing on that lucky shot, the Killer B’s took advantage of the momentum and did all they could to cut down the Clippers’ lead. Brown (16 points on 5-9, 4-4 fro 3PT) fed Matt Barnes (8 points on 4-9, 7 rebounds) for a layup, Steve Blake hit one from downtown, then Barnes hit a floater, which was followed by a long two from Blake and suddenly the Lakers had regained a 74-73 advantage. The Laker reserves combined for 34 points, 16 rebounds and seven assists, and were the reason the team had a fighting chance for victory.
The fourth quarter almost half done, some of the Laker starters returned and so did the Clippers’ offense. Led by Eric Gordon (24 points on 8-14, 5 rebounds, 5 assists), the home team got their lead back.
With 1:14 left in the game, and the Lakers behind by the five points, Gasol hit a jumper, then Ron Artest came to the defensive rescue, knocking the ball from Eric Gordon and then Blake Griffin’s hands two possessions in a row and letting Bryant do what he does best – score in crunch time. Bryant hit two jumpers to get the Lakers’ back their lead, but a blown defensive assignment allowed Deandre Jordan to score on an uncontested dunk.
The Clippers were ready to celebrate, weren’t they? They thought that Deandre Jordan’s dunk had won them the game. It did give them a one-point advantage, but a one-point lead, with 3.1 seconds left and Laker ball. That’s plenty of time to the likes of Bryant and Fisher.
Barnes surveyed the floor and inbounded to Fisher. Instead of launching a signature, clutch three, Fisher drove into the lane and tossed a one-handed floater off the backboard and into the basket. Buzzer – Lakers win.
Seven months early, DFish, but nonetheless, we bow to you, Sir Clutchness.
Pre-game Thoughts: Do not underestimate your opponent, Lakers.
Half-time Thoughts: 41-43 – After leading by as much as eight points, the Lakers encountered sluggishness and laziness, and the Clippers encountered their chance to take the lead. The Lakers are shooting just 38% with the Clippers no better at 37%. Here’s hoping the second half runs a lot smoother than the hot mess of the first.
Most Thoughtless Player(s) of the Game: Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom – after such a productive and efficient game against the Wizards last night, the Laker front court combined for just 18 points on 7-21, not to mention five turnovers.
Most Thought-filled Player(s) of the Game: To pull off a win, playing the way they were, the Lakers owe this victory to 1) The Bench, who surged late in the third quarter and early in the fourth, instilling life into the team 2) Ron Artest, who reminded the doubters that his role on this team is defender, not scorer, and with two steals late in the game, we are all thankful for that 3) Derek Fisher, for being Derek Fisher in late-game, pressure-filled situations.