Lakers need a run for it
Well, at least the Clippers didn’t lose by 38.
In fact, they looked nothing like the team that devolved into a punch line in last week’s laugher against the Lakers, though the Lakers were still the ones smiling after Wednesday’s rematch.
The Lakers emerged from a dreary first half, much to their fans’ delight, or relief, in a 106-88 victory at Staples Center.
They had been 38-11 against the Clippers since Kobe Bryant entered the league, and, well, they almost added a 12th loss.
They were neither efficient nor intimidating on the way to another poor shooting night that required an out-of-nowhere 22-0 run and a late-game burst from a surprising source.
Lamar Odom tipped in Bryant’s miss and then made a three-point basket to provide a 98-81 lead with 3:13 to play. Game over . . . finally.
The Lakers, still undefeated (4-0). The Clippers, still winless (0-5).
Not that the Lakers weren’t threatened. They hadn’t played since Saturday, and it showed.
Bryant had 27 points but shot poorly, missing 13 of 21 attempts. Pau Gasol was also off the mark, scoring nine points on two-for-seven shooting.
But Odom, who had been biding his time on the second unit so far this season, played a key stretch of the fourth quarter with the starters, as did Trevor Ariza.
Odom, who turns 29 today, finished with 15 points.
“He came off the bench and gave us a big boost,” Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said. “Then at the end of the game, he came out and was instrumental.”
Five games into the season, the Clippers finally got their planned starting lineup on the court when Marcus Camby (heel) and Baron Davis (finger, hip) were deemed healthy enough to start together for the first time this season. Davis had 17 points, Camby had two points and seven rebounds.
There were even murmurs of surprise when the Clippers took a 16-11 lead. In fact, the Clippers still led after one quarter, 29-27.
So much for the Lakers’ vaunted defense. Their offense wasn’t any better.
The Lakers made only 37.2% of their shots in the first half and trailed at halftime, 51-47.
Was it really a week ago that they dismantled the Clippers, 117-79, in the Clippers’ home opener?
Jackson was concerned before tipoff, complimenting Clippers Coach Mike Dunleavy.
“Mike’s an old hand at this,” he said. “He’s going to have a counteraction to what we did defensively to them the first game.”
Unfortunately for the Clippers, second-half collapses have become old hand for them.
Before the game, Dunleavy talked about games in which they had “run out of gas” and would “drop off a cliff.”
Case in point No. 1 was an 18-point halftime lead against Denver that turned into a 10-point overtime loss.
Case in point No. 2 was Wednesday’s setback. The Clippers were blasted in the second half, 59-37.
They somehow clung to an 81-79 lead with 8:15 to play but didn’t score again until Al Thornton’s three-pointer with 1:04 left to play.
“Look, we’re going to get there,” Dunleavy said. “We’ve just got to keep pushing it and pushing it. I’m not going to soft-step around it. I’m making it clear to my players what we need to do.”
The Lakers deserve partial credit, Jackson said.
“I think there’s been talk about the Clippers having trouble finishing games,” he said. “I don’t think it’s all about us. I think some of it’s about them. Some of it’s maybe conditioning. But I thought that we played harder in the fourth quarter. We got some turnovers and they missed some easy shots.”
Either way, the Lakers will take it.
They now enter another awkward phase, finding themselves without an opponent until Sunday against Houston.
Until then, they’re off to their 10th 4-0 start in team history.
Nothing to brag about but something upon which to build.