Lakers in a Fallback Position
The Lakers had referred to it as a getaway game, the last chance for a victory before an intimidating six-game trip.
It definitely got away from them Tuesday, and with it their tenuous hold on the last playoff spot.
The Clippers, facing a 12th consecutive losing season, probably won’t be playing beyond April, but they were satisfied spoilers, knocking the Lakers back, 110-101, in front of 18,225 Tuesday at Staples Center.
Corey Maggette had 30 points on nine-for-11 shooting, and the Clippers finished 2-2 against the Lakers this season, the first time they have not lost the season series since 1996-97.
The Clippers had lost 11of 14 and were in danger of moving a season-low nine games under .500, but Clipper Coach Mike Dunleavy ripped the Clippers after a lackluster loss Monday to the Memphis Grizzlies. The message apparently stuck.
“I’m just glad our team came back and responded to what Coach said,” Maggette said. “It’s a good win, especially beating the Lakers.”
The Lakers lost more than a game, falling a half-game behind the Denver Nuggets for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Not only did the Lakers give up 66 points in the second half, they also lost their collective composure as the game slipped away in the waning minutes.
Lamar Odom had 20 points on nine-for-22 shooting before getting ejected for heaving the ball the length of the court after Chris Mihm was called for a foul with 1:47 left. The Lakers trailed, 101-95, at the time, 104-95 after the Clippers were done making free throws.
“We still have a game where we’re coming back,” Laker Coach Frank Hamblen said. “You just can’t do that. You’ve got to grow up. We’re counting on him.”
The game was designated a Laker home game, meaning the Clippers broke a streak of nine consecutive road losses and improved to 7-22 overall on the road. The Clippers had not won a road game since Feb. 3 and were 2-21 in such games since November.
Dunleavy’s Monday night tirade did not go unnoticed Tuesday.
“I had to say what I had to say because the way I want to see us play is the way we played tonight,” Dunleavy said. “I think they saw the results of that.”
Kobe Bryant made 12 of 21 shots and had 41 points, 25 at halftime. Chucky Atkins had nine points, all of them in the first quarter.
The days leading up to the game carried much less fanfare than the teams’ meeting in January, when Clipper point guard Marko Jaric said the Clippers were the better team and Atkins answered by calling Jaric the Clipper equivalent of a punter.
The Clippers beat the Lakers by 16 that night, with Bryant sidelined because of a sprained ankle. But Bryant made seven of 11 shots and all 10 of his free throws in the first half Tuesday to help stake the Lakers a 52-44 halftime lead.
Maggette’s reverse layup with 8:52 left in the third quarter tied the score at 54-54. Maggette then stole the ball from Chris Mihm and went uncontested the other way to give the Clippers a 56-54 lead, their first edge since the first quarter.
The Clipper lead grew as large as 10 in the quarter, as the Lakers exhibited the defensive lapses that apparently have become a permanent part of the season.
As if to demonstrate, Bryant was called for a foul on Maggette with 1.3 seconds left and was hit with a technical foul for arguing the call with referees.
Maggette made all three free throws and the Clippers led going into the final quarter, 77-70.
The Clippers maintained a slight edge until Odom was ejected for throwing the ball the length of the court. The ball sailed into the first few rows of fans.
Odom was irritated because Mihm was called for fouling Elton Brand as the Clipper forward tried a reverse dunk.
“Of course I should hold it, but that’s a competitor competing,” Odom said. “Sometimes I wear my emotions on my sleeve. I’m not saying I’m right. I’m wrong.”
The Lakers begin a season-long six-game trip Thursday in Dallas.
“Piece of cake,” Laker Coach Frank Hamblen said sarcastically. “This was a getaway game. Our schedule is a monster here on out. We’ll see if we stay together or fragment.”