Updated: January 26, 2012, 6:59 PM ET

1. Co-Tenant Squabble Brings Out Lakers' Best

Adande By J.A. Adande
ESPN.com
Archive

LOS ANGELES -- The Lakers don't have a championship to defend for the first time since 2008. The Lakers don't have speed, they don't have players who can create their own shots (that wasn't a criticism, that was their coach's own assessment). Over their previous three games they didn't even have a victory.

What they do have, buried somewhere inside those golden jerseys, is pride.

That it took the Clippers to bring it out of the Lakers says something about the Clippers' nascent threat to their Southern California hoops supremacy. But ultimately it was the Lakers who prevailed 96-91 Wednesday night when the in-building battle got physical, when execution down the stretch became critical, when desire became paramount.

Perhaps it should not have taken this long to reappear. It shouldn't have required the potential of a fourth consecutive loss to bring it out. They shouldn't have needed a welcomed extended practice session on Tuesday to figure out who they were again. But if the Lakers are to become what they want to be, they had to rediscover what they had been.

There was something present that wasn't there over the past week, which featured a 73-point outing against the Dallas Mavericks, back-to-back losses by a combined 25 points in Miami and Orlando, and a blown 13-point lead in a loss against the Indiana Pacers that left Pau Gasol grumbling about his role in the offense.

Wednesday night, Metta World Peace played with the rough-and-reckless abandon of Ron Artest. The officials allowed him to be physical and it seemed to buoy the rest of his game, turning him into a rebounder, a playmaker, a shot-blocker and finally a 3-point-shot-maker (after Bryant out-battled Caron Butler for a rebound).

Gasol insisted on getting the shots he wanted, refusing to allow even the aggressive defense of Clippers reserve forward Reggie Evans to deter him. Kobe Bryant wound up outscoring Gasol 24-23 but it still felt like Gasol's night.

Gasol got some post-ups, and he got the ball. He took 13 shots and made nine of them. He had the nastier attitude Bryant always tries to bring out of him, and he even seemed edgier in his postgame interviews.

"It wasn't like we were going to run more sets for me," Gasol said politely but not pleasantly. "Just play hard and good things will come."

The interesting side effect was that Bryant took fewer shots in his favored locations below the free throw line, took fewer shots overall. He finished 7-for-17, but did come up with seven assists. He caught some people off guard with a baseline drive, in the midst of what's normally Kobe Time, that turned into an alley-oop to Bynum.

Bryant's description of Gasol could easily apply to the rest of the squad.

"You could tell the difference between Pau [against] Indiana and Pau tonight," Bryant said. "That's two championships right there."

The remnants of those ring-winning seasons rattled around inside the Lakers' heads Wednesday. Meanwhile, the Clippers had four turnovers in the final five minutes (including Griffin's stepping out of bounds while curiously setting up for a shot in 3-point territory).

"Everybody played with the right attitude, the right temperament," Bryant said. "Guys did what they did best. Ron -- Metta -- was being himself. He wasn't trying to be this peaceful guy. You've got to be who you are, and we'll surround you."

This game was far from peaceful. It featured six technical fouls, an ejection (of Lakers forward Josh McRoberts, for reasons still unbeknown to him) and a flagrant foul. There were shoves, staredowns, and even a pat on the head from Gasol to Chris Paul that angered the Clipper point guard.

There wasn't that elusive 100-point night that the Lakers have achieved only once this season. And that's fine with Mike Brown.

"We're not going to score 110 points, because we're not a fast-paced team or a high-possession team," Brown said.

The Clippers are the ones who are supposed to be high-flying and high-scoring. While they got their requisite number of highlight plays (even Bryant admitted, "You have to enjoy and admire that stuff") they didn't reach their customary field goal percentage of 45 percent or points average of 97.4, scoring 91 points on 42.5 percent shooting.

The second half, in particular, reflected the type of defense Mike Brown wants his Lakers to play. After the Clippers made six of the first eight shots that Bynum contested, they missed all seven such attempts in the second half to finish 6-for-15 in my made-up Shots Over Bynum's Outstretched Arms statistic. The Clippers shot 38.6 percent and scored 40 points in the second half.

"We definitely trusted each other a lot more [defensively]," said Bynum, who finished with four blocked shots to go with his 19 points.

The Clippers led most of the night, only to let the game get away from them in the final six minutes.

"We let it slip out of our hands," Griffin said.

"It did get chippy out there. I think [the series has] changed. But we're not sitting here trying to call it a rivalry or anything like that."

Since the teams have never met in the playoffs, Bryant scoffed at the notion that it's a rivalry. A question about whether this victory reasserted the Lakers' status as the kings of L.A. caused Bryant to break his recent vow to avoid cursing in the postgame interviews.

He did respect the fight the Clippers showed, however.

"That's how it should be," Bryant said. "You've got to know who you're messing with, too."

That would be the Los Angeles Lakers, who finally seemed to realize that themselves.


Dimes past: Jan. 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13-14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20-21 | 22 | 23 | 24

2. From The Ashes, Wittman Starts Anew

By Kyle Weidie
ESPN TrueHoop
lastname
Wittman

WASHINGTON -- "When I see them pull out a cigarette, I got to take it out of their mouths," said newly anointed teacher in the school yard, Wizards coach Randy Wittman. In the debut of their interim coach, Washington jumped out on the Charlotte Bobcats 31-17 in the first quarter and never looked back, the 92-75 final score closer than it seemed.

"It's like any bad habit we have; if you're a smoker, you ain't going to drop those cigarettes on the first day," said Wittman. He was talking about his young team's penchant for "hero ball," as coaches like to spin it. For a very rare night, the Wizards shared. They totaled 23 assists, their second highest on the season, and John Wall was responsible for only four.

New voice, one team? It's hard to gauge what exactly got into Washington. With abrupt change often comes a willingness to work together, especially if players think doing so will shift the blame of a 2-15 record toward fired coach Flip Saunders.

You also can't discount how bad Charlotte is, especially without D.J. Augustin, Gerald Henderson and Corey Maggette. After Kemba Walker's 4-for-17 night, the Bobcats' field goal attempts leaders were Matt Carroll (7-for-10) and Cory Higgins (4-for-10).

The lesson is, don't get these Wizards wrong. With 22 turnovers to Charlotte's 19, the game often felt more like a D-League contest, sparse crowd included. Wall was responsible for seven turnovers. Andray Blatche, partially due to Tyrus Thomas' career-high nine blocks, missed several shots from close range and continues to receive boos from the home crowd. Aside from always trying and playing selfless basketball, Washington lacks shooters, post play and a reliable crunch-time scorer to compete with most teams on most nights.

The challenge? "Win the games that this team's supposed to win," said Wittman. Sounds a bit auspicious, this being the NBA and these being the Wizards, but Wittman is setting expectations. He announced to the media that he wasn't a miracle-worker, but the instructor laid out his lesson plan.

"Everybody wants to run, and every player that you would ever talk to says, 'I want to run.' Well, we do have to get in shape now, to run," said Wittman. With five minutes left in the game and the Wizards up 23 points, the coach sent Wall back in, starting guard Nick Young came back 30 seconds prior. "Many people thought the game was out of reach and, 'Why is John Wall coming back in the game?'" said Wittman. "Well, we gotta get in shape."

Read: Be hard on the leader and the rest will follow. And if the coach is trying to break his team's nicotine habit, maybe running them more is not such a bad idea.

For more from Weidie, check out Truth About It »

3. Daily Dime Live Rewind

Relive and note all the chatter, memes and Photoshops of Wednesday's Daily Dime Live.


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