Lakers 126, Clippers 86: Beatdown, anyone? (Postgame analysis and video)

January, 16, 2010
1/16/10
1:20
AM PT

Mark J. Terrill/AP Photo
Kobe had success doing this activity.



It was barely more than a week ago when the Clippers upended the natural order of things, at least as they relate to the NBA landscape in Los Angeles. They thoroughly outplayed the Lakers en route to a 102-91 win, ending a nine-game losing streak to the purple and gold, and ticking off Lakers fans to the nth degree. Black was white, white was black. The sun rose in the west and set in the east.

Leno was a hit at 10 pm.

Friday night at Staples, the Lakers put the universe back in balance and then some, hanging a forty point beatdown on their in-town brethren. Final score, 126-86. It was a welcome return to normalcy for Lakers fans, in more ways than one, as they watched their team move the rock, find balance in the offense, take advantage of mismatches in the post, and generally perform in a manner to which the faithful have come to expect. But it wasn't just the final score that brought a sense of familiarity. With the return of Pau Gasol from a left hamstring injury, the Lakers had 13 healthy (or reasonably so) bodies available to them. While the struggles of the last couple weeks shouldn't be ignored, with a difficult stretch of games ahead of them the Lakers now have a chance to show the team struggling to find any sense of consistency over the last handful of weeks wasn't actually the team. It was missing too many pieces.

We'll all learn more about where the Lakers stand when the Magic come to town on Monday night, and get a real education- likely the best yet- when the Lakers start that burly eight game roadie Thursday night in Cleveland.

In the meantime, enjoy more analysis and video below.

--Brian Kamenetzky
THE GOOD

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Andrew Bynum played a strong game alongside Pau Gasol.



Andrew Bynum: With Gasol returning after six games out with a hamstring injury, one would naturally assume all eyes would be fixed on El Spaniard. But instead, the chatter focused mainly on Andrew Bynum, who's often appeared more comfortable as a solo act than being part of a duo. When hammy ailments left Pau on the shelf and Drew the main attraction, he's been a star like Paul Simon. Working in tandem, however, his vibe was distinctly "Art Garfunkel." After notching double-double's in four of the last five games and admitting better focus when he's the primary big man, it was easy to wonder a regression similar to December's 11.6/6.1 disappointment might be in the works.

Well, so far, so good, and in fashion wasting little time providing reassurance.

Ten of Bynum's 20 points came in the first quarter, where he actively sought good position and reacted in confident fashion. Often working from the block's right side, Bynum scored off drop step moves, dunks after a flash across the lane, and occasionally just muscling his way through a double team. As has often been the case in Drew's young career, his defense can be dictated by his offense, and tonight was wonderfully no exception. His long arms created continual challenges and misses around the rim, and he even managed to force a few wild jump shots along the baseline, closing out hard on the likes of Eric Gordon. As for the rebounds, seven may feel underwhelming on the surface, but to paraphrase a saying about books, don't judge a stat by the box score. Almost every board was earned by a hard crash, the most impressive coming after he wrestled a rebound away from Craig Smith, then drew the loose ball foul. If fans liked what they saw (and I can't imagine any dissatisfaction), be sure to send Kobe Bryant a thank you note, because he went out of his way to light a fire under the kid.

"I made it a point before the the game to tell Andrew, I don't want you being passive," said Kobe. "You gotta be aggressive. You can't go back to thinking about stepping on toes. Pau's a phenomenal player, and he'll figure his way through it, as I will, too. But you as a player, as an individual, you have to play your game."

No argument from Gasol, who also reminded Drew to "play the way you've been playing when I'm not out there" and thinks the issue has been overblown by the media. "It's not a major change, I don't think. He's still plays (a lot). He should be productive."

Balance: Along with Bynum, Gasol also had 20 points (highlighted by a 12-12 stripe showing and his very obvious positive impact on the offensive flow) and Kobe hit the big 3-0 and struck gold four times from downtown. Ron Artest also scored in double digits with ten (albeit on a shaky 3-9 clip). The remaining starter, Derek Fisher only added a quartet, but drew "game ball" honors from Phil Jackson. Six assists, a season-high eight rebounds, plus a pair a steals. His truly crowd-pleasing moment, though, came during the third quarter. He and Gasol had converged to trap Baron Davis in the corner and the local product put a little mustard behind clear out efforts on both Lakers, followed by a very aggressive elbow into El Spaniard's side. Pau took vocal exception to the blow, but nobody got hotter under the collar than Fisher, who immediately started barking at Davis en route to eventual double technical fouls. The two may have played together and gotten along as ex-Warrior teammates, but Fish made no bones about who he's riding with these days. When "Point four" checked out of the game at the 2:19 mark, fans made a point of expressing their approval through applause.

As for the bench, save Luke Walton, every reserve got on the board and shot at least fifty percent, keeping pace with a Clippers second unit that got 17 points from Craig Smith alone. Shannon Brown led the way with 11 points, Lamar Odom scored seven in under eleven minutes, and Jordan Farmar dished a trio of dimes. Even during garbage time, guys like Sasha Vujacic and DJ Mbenga remained focused, hustling hard to make the most of their time on the floor.

The best aspect of the recent win in Dallas was seeing the Lakers play with purpose as a unit. A group mind was forged to create a sum better than the short-handed, dinged up parts on hand. I was hoping that would be built upon tonight and my expectations were more than met.

Mark J. Terrill/AP Photo
Derek Fisher hounded Baron Davis.



Defense: After a first half allowing fifty points, the lockdown was kicked into overdrive during the third quarter, a frame where the Clips shot just twenty-two percent and scored a not-particularly-sexy seventeen. The fourth frame remained unkind, with nineteen points and very little success until garbage time commenced. During periods where the Lakers have looked unbeatable, one commonality was a strong third quarter, so everyone emerging from halftime obviously dialed in was a more than welcome sight. Nearly everyone added two cents, but beyond Bynum's individual efforts already cited, Gasol had three blocks and Fisher's second half defense against B.Diddy was often outstanding, likely the reason he grew frustrated enough to toss a 'bow.

THE BAD

Luke Walton: After a surprise (and effective) Texas return from a pinched nerve in his back, Walton flopped in a homecoming of sorts after the long absence. Zero points (0-1 from the field, 0-2 from the line), a turnover, and a few slow reactions on defense leading directly to buckets. Everyone offers up a lemon now and then, but I would have preferred Luke time a "meh" effort so it didn't come right on the heels of a piece I wrote examining why his contributions can go unappreciated. I stand by the premise, but dude, you're making me look bad.

THE CHEESY

The Jersey Shore cast was on hand to take in the game. And by "take in the game," I mean "show off Ed Hardy-ish wardrobes, talk amongst themselves and constantly look to see who was looking at them." Even in town filled with people famous for being famous and seeking their fifteen minutes of fame like a drug addict hunts down a score, this was pretty mortifying. I've never seen the show in my life, and I've never been less tempted to give it a whirl.

--Andy Kamenetzky

VIDEO

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Nick Young
PTS AST STL MIN
17.9 1.5 0.7 28.3
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsP. Gasol 9.7
AssistsK. Marshall 8.8
StealsJ. Meeks 1.4
BlocksP. Gasol 1.5