Clippers win Battle of Staples: now they face Dallas

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Photo above: Fergie entertained the crowd in a surprise performance between quarters. (YouTube)

On October 31, Halloween, the Clippers faced the Lakers, as the visiting team, here at Staples Center. The Clippers won, 118-111.

Clippers owner Steve Ballmer got up and danced during Fergie’s performance. (YouTube)
Clippers owner Steve Ballmer got up and danced during Fergie’s performance.

It wasn’t an easy game for the Clippers, despite the Lakers having a tough start to the season. By the end of the third quarter the Lakers had clawed their way back and were leading, 90-86. It took big efforts by Jamal Crawford and Blake Griffin especially to get past the Lakers in the fourth quarter.

For their part, the Lakers are playing better at this point in the season, despite what their record indicates.

They use Kobe Bryant less, he didn’t play Monday Night when the Lakers went to Portland to face the Trailblazers. And they won two of their previous five games, beating the Denver Nuggets and the Indiana Pacers. If the Lakers played up to their potential it could have been another long night for the Clippers.

But the Clippers are hurting after the loss to the Hawks so they were determined not to have two losses in a row.

Wednesday’s game was full of surprises, none of them good for the L.A. Lakers. The big surprise was the score. At one point in the third quarter the L.A. Clippers were 43 points ahead.

Then there were the turnovers. On Monday against the Hawks, the Clippers committed 21 turnovers. Wednesday they only had six, but the Lakers had 13 and the Clippers got 15 points off those mistakes.

Kobe Bryant after the game. (Claudia Gestro)
Kobe Bryant after the game.
(Claudia Gestro)

In the first half Kobe Bryant only took four shots and didn’t score on any of them. He finished the night with four points.

And then between the first and second quarters Fergie came out and entertained the audience. Clippers owner Steve Ballmer even got up from his court-side seat and danced, to the delight of the crowd.

Maybe Fergie singing was a nice surprise for the Lakers, but they were too busy trying to figure out how to stop the Clippers, or at least slow them down. The Clippers winning was never in doubt, they led from the very first basket to the final buzzer. No one expected such a blow out though.

The Clippers played excellent defense and Matt Barnes is credited with shutting down Kobe Bryant. DeAndre Jordan had another outstanding night with 13 rebounds, one steal, three blocked shots and 10 points. Matt Barnes not only covered Bryant, he managed to score 19 points and Chris Paul finished the night with 24 and 11 assists. Blake Griffin led all scoring with 27 points, but he also had nine rebounds and eight assists.

Several times this season coach Doc Rivers has said Griffin is one of the best passers in the league and he’s been showing his ability to assist a lot lately. Wednesday Griffin put on a passing clinic.

Lakers head coach Byron Scott: “Man up.” (Claudia Gestro)
Lakers head coach Byron Scott: “Man up.”
(Claudia Gestro)

The Lakers didn’t look good at all. Since the beginning of December they were showing improvement as a team, but Wednesday the Lakers didn’t look like a team that wanted to win. The Clippers beat them up and down the court and at one point in the third quarter the Lakers couldn’t move the ball without turning it over. At one point in the game, Lakers head coach Byron Scott told his team to “man up.” Not in the “play man-to-man defense” context, but as in, “do your jobs.”

After the game Scott was visibly disturbed by his team’s performance. He described his team as being “soft.” As for Kobe Bryant, the coach said, “I’m not worried about Kobe. Tonight he got 27 minutes in, which is good. Get a little rust off.”

Kobe Bryant said, “The game just got away from us.”

Jeremy Lin and Carlos Boozer during warm-ups. (Claudia Gestro)
Jeremy Lin and Carlos Boozer during warm-ups.
(Claudia Gestro)

The Clippers starters sat out the entire fourth quarter, giving their bench some much-needed time on the court. On their win, Blake Griffin said, “Even when they [the Lakers] scored tonight we got the ball so quickly, we were setting up our offense with 17,18, 19 [seconds] on the clock, that’s just huge.

The best that can be said for the Lakers about that loss is that it won’t count as a home court loss.

Tonight the Clippers were the home team and their hometown crowd loved it. The final score was 114-89.

••• •••• ••••• •••• ••••

On Friday Night the Lakers got a big win over the Orlando Magic, 101-84. Once again Kobe Bryant sat out the game, watching from home. As a result the Lakers played a much more balanced game. Jeremy Lin had 18 points and Carlos Boozer had 12 points and 14 rebounds. Forward Ryan Kelly had 13 points and eight rounds and center Jordan Hill finished with 11 points and nine rebounds.

It was a close game until the 4th quarter when the Lakers went on a 12-2 run in the fourth quarter, with three straight baskets by Boozer. The big news for the Lakers was the play of rookie power forward Tarik Black. He had 14 points and nine rebounds.

Orlando is having a tough season so this was a must win for the Lakers.

This afternoon the Clippers face the Dallas Mavericks at Staples Center. It’s an early game, as will be tommorow’s game when the Clippers take on the Dallas Mavericks. The Mavs are a much-improved team this week for one simple reason: they have recently acquired point guard Rajon Rondo from the Boston Celtics. The talk over the years has been about Rondo not liking things in Boston, especially when Doc Rivers was the coach.

Mavericks power forward Dirk Nowitzki was on ESPN’s Mike & Mike radio show and said, It’s been a great acquisition. We had been struggling the first couple of games, getting used to each other. He’s a completely unique player in his offensive ability and what he brings. He’s a great defender, one of the best passers in the league. We all know he is a very, very smart player.”

The Western Conference is very strong this year. Right now the top eight teams in the West all have winning record, the Mavericks are in third place with 26-11 and the Clippers are in the sixth spot with a 24-12 record.

Blake Griffin at the post-game press conference. (Claudia Gestro)
Blake Griffin at the post-game press conference.
(Claudia Gestro)

It will be a tough getting into the playoffs in this conference. Nowitzki said, “I already felt like the last couple years it’s always been a slugfest in the West just to get into the playoffs. We felt like we had a decent year last year and almost had 50 wins. And we’re the 8th seed and ran into San Antonio in the first round end up losing in seven. So it’s been tough just making the playoffs. There will be some epic first round matches coming up this year.”

The Clippers have had a difficult time against the better teams in the league this season. Beating the mavericks at Staples would help shake the impression that is forming around the team: that they can’t win the big games.

This will be the first meeting of the two teams this season. The last time they met was April 3 in Dallas. The Mavs won a close game, 113-107. Nowitzki was the top scorer with 26 points, but DeAndre Jordan had 15 rebounds for the Clippers and Blake Griffin had 11 assists.

It will be another close game today.