Thursday, January 7, 2010
Clippers drop Lakers: The reactions
By Andy Kamenetzky
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images
Baron Davis led the Clippers to a win over the defending champs.
The purple and gold entered Staples Center a consensus fave against L.A.'s "other team," what with a superior record, ownership of nine consecutive wins against their local rival, franchise history firmly on its side, yada, yada, yada. This chatter has gotten to Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy --particularly when generated on 710 ESPN, it would appear-- who thinks talking heads haven't taken into account enough his team's injury history over the years. (And lord knows Dunleavy's done his best to tell people about it whenever possible, so those reminders falling on deaf ears is understandably frustrating.) Now at full strength --save Blake Griffin-- he thinks the Clips can hang with the defending champs. Certainly appeared a believable theory last night, if nothing else.
And while I salute the Clippers for bringing the defensive intensity, the Lakers more or less abandoned their sideline triangle for either a series of fruitless screen and roll attempts (you're telling me anyone has to guard a Ron Artest and Josh Powell two-man game?), or Kobe Bryant one-on-one rat-a-tat. Kobe was brilliant in this game's third quarter, scoring 17 points with two assists, but it was fool's gold. He kept trying to score on isolation or screen/roll plays after that, good shots rimmed out or wouldn't fall, and the Lakers never got back into a rhythm after that. I'd say the team missed Pau Gasol and his work in the apex, but in a stadium with Kobe, Phil Jackson, and Derek Fisher(notes), this team should have known better.
Bryant's "rat-a-tat," as Dwyer put it, has been a security blanket for the Lakers during short-handed or ineffective stretches over the years. Fair to say, Kobe's proven adept at pulling his team's butt outta hot water over the years. As the Time's Mike Bresnahan describes, whether the result of a faulty finger, the Clippers D or just an off-night, Kobe wasn't able to play Superman, those iso-heavy possessions continually came up dry:
Bryant tried his best to put the team on his back, scoring 14 consecutive points during one stretch in the third quarter. But his shot wasn't falling. "He was just looking to ride that streak he got going in the third quarter," Jackson said. "He never could regenerate that again."Bryant missed badly on a three-point attempt in the fourth quarter, the ball bouncing hard off the back of the rim. On another fourth-quarter play, he stepped out of bounds while trying to drive against Rasual Butler. On another, he missed badly on a left-handed runner, a product of his favoring his broken right index finger. Bryant made one of five shots and had four points in the fourth quarter. The Lakers were the antithesis of teamwork in the first half, struggling to put together eight assists while the Clippers had 17 en route to a 52-43 halftime lead. It didn't help that Bryant made three of 13 shots in the first half.
"There was just too much individual play," Jackson said.