For just over three quarters, the Clippers gave the Lakers all they could handle. Los Angeles's junior squad actually had a four-point halftime lead, and even took an 81-79 lead with just over eight minutes to play, before the Lakers decided enough was enough and quickly put things to an end in their favor.
The Lakers scored the next 22 points of the game, over half of which came from the free throw line, as the Clippers (somewhat predictably) faded down the stretch. After taking that fourth quarter lead, the team didn't score again until they were down by 20, when Al Thornton broke the silence with a three-pointer. He finished with 22 points and five rebounds, but obviously when you go over seven minutes in the fourth quarter without a bucket, there aren't many teams in the NBA that you'll end up beating, least of all the Lakers.
Baron Davis and Marcus Camby were in the starting lineup for the Clippers, which was the first time that the duo has started for the team in four games this season. Baron seemed intent on making sure that his team would not be embarrassed the way they were when the teams met last week, and started things off by scoring 10 first quarter points. The Clippers took a four-point lead into the half, and stayed competitive early into the fourth quarter, before getting simply overwhelmed by the more talented Lakers.
This was not a sharp performance from the Lakers, but they turned it on when they had to in order to get the win. The Clippers held them to just 38.8% shooting from the field, and the team was led by 27 points from Kobe Bryant, albeit on just 8-21 shooting. Andrew Bynum played well in the middle, grabbing 17 rebounds and blocking four shots, while at the same time chipping in nine points. On nights like these when the shots aren't falling, it's nice to see that the Lakers' newly found defensive intensity can win games for them. There aren't many teams that can withstand a 22-0 fourth quarter run, and the Lakers are among an elite group of teams that are capable of issuing one.
The Lakers improve to 4-0 on the season, while the Clippers fall to 0-5. The Houston Rockets will visit the Staples Center on Sunday to give the Lakers just their second challenge in eight days. Meanwhile, the Clippers play their next five games at home, so you'd think that with both Davis and Camby back on the floor, they'll be able to get their first win of the season sometime in the next ten days.