Chris Paul #3 of the Los Angeles Clippers controls the ball late in the game in front of Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers on way to a 107-102 Clipper win at Staples Center on January 4, 2013 in Los Angeles, California.
The “Battle for Los Angeles” on Friday night eventually met the hype with a nail-biting finish, but the Clippers outlasted the late Lakers’ rally to win 107-102 and snap a two-game losing streak. The Clippers led by as many as 19 points in the fourth quarter before the Lakers fought back to close within two points with less than two minutes remaining.
Kobe Bryant was at his best, scoring 16 of his 38 points in the fourth quarter. The Black Mamba went into attack mode after three quarters yielded a 16-point Lakers deficit. Three quarters in, Bryant was shooting an efficient 9-15 from the field for 22 points. Also, he was playing his heart out on defense, collecting a game-high five steals on the night and taking on the responsibility of guarding Chris Paul at the pivotal point.
“I’ve seen a lot of games, and I don’t know—on both ends—anyone playing better than that,” Lakers head coach Mike D’Antoni said after the game. “[Bryant] got us back in the game.”
However, all of Bryant’s effort went to waste, once again, as Chris Paul led the Clippers to victory in the final couple minutes. Paul earned some critical whistles and hit all the six of his free throws down the stretch. Paul ended the night with 30 points after scoring 11 of the Clippers’ final 20 points. He also managed to hand out 13 assists, but 11 of those came in the first half.
Steve Nash managed the Lakers’ point guard duties with 10 assists and 12 points on 3-4 shooting. Nash’s four turnovers hurt the team, but the Lakers did not ultimately lose the turnover battle. The Lakers did, however, get out-rebounded on the offensive and defensive glass. Also, missing 10 free throws on the night means a great deal in a five point loss.
Ultimately, though, a cold shooting start was the Lakers' demise on Friday night. Jodie Meeks took five shots in the first quarter and missed all of them, as the Lakers started 0-8 from behind the arc before Meeks finally hit one in the second quarter. The Lakers ended the night shooting 6-25 from three point land, 24 percent. The Lakers have died by the three the last two games.
To their credit, this group of Lakers certainly do not quit. Regardless of what the scoreboard suggests, the Lakers always have a chance because Kobe Bryant is on the team. After Friday’s loss, the Lakers are now 15-17, and Bryant’s incredible effort, effiiciency, and energy was wasted, once again.
About the only positive thing Coach D’Antoni could say after the game was, “Kobe was phenomenal.”
Unfortunately, the rest of the Lakers were not. Hardly anyone would be surprised if General Manager Mitch Kupchack picked up the phone during the first half and started asking about what may be available around the league.
With Pau Gasol only playing a minute of the fourth quarter and clearly being the odd man out during the comeback (and since D'Antoni took over), he appears to be the most likely change…let the trade talk commence.