Clippers greet a new day in L.A.

On this Saturday night, the city of Los Angeles belonged to the Clippers and not the Lakers.

And the brand new guard in L.A., the Clippers’ Chris Paul, was just as masterful as the five-time champion from the Lakers, Kobe Bryant.

It was Paul’s team that pulled out an impressive 102-94 victory over Bryant’s Lakers at Staples Center, in a Clippers home game in the arena both teams share.


Paul scored to give the Clippers a 95-82 lead and then limped to the bench with a strained left hamstring with 4:01 left, never to return.

But he finished his night with 33 points on 12-for-22 shooting, plus six assists.

“I don’t know what happened; I thought it was a cramp,” Paul said. “I’ve never had this before. I’ll just have to wait to see tomorrow what exactly is going on.”

Bryant had 42 points on 14-for-28 shooting, and seven rebounds, but the Lakers’ winning streak still ended at five games.

It was Bryant’s fourth consecutive game scoring 40 points or more, his longest such streak since he had 40-plus points in five consecutive games March 16-25, 2007.

Bryant has been putting up big numbers despite a sore right wrist that he says has improved since he first injured it against the Clippers in the first exhibition game last month.

“He’s always in the attack mode,” Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro said before the game. “We’ll just try to do the best we can. But it’ll be a team defense. It won’t just be one guy.”

Del Negro began with Caron Butler defending Bryant, and Chauncey Billups (19 points), Ryan Gomes and Randy Foye took turns as well.

With some double-team help, the Clippers limited Bryant to 11 points on three-for-12 shooting in the first half.

But Bryant lighted them up for 21 points in the third, doing his part to help the Lakers cut a 14-point Clippers lead to four points entering the fourth quarter.

That was as close as the Lakers got the rest of the way in a game that became testy.

Blake Griffin, who had 22 points and 14 rebounds, and Metta World Peace were issued technical fouls after they become entangled. Lakers rookie Darius Morris was assessed a technical after he became entangled with Clippers center DeAndre Jordan.

This all happened in the third quarter in about a 20-second span.

Yep, this game meant something to both teams and neither was about to back down.

For the Clippers (6-3), it was the third game in the last week against one of the top teams in the NBA. They lost at Portland on Tuesday and beat the Miami Heat at Staples the next night.

Also, it was only their ninth game of the regular season, the fewest in the NBA.

For the Lakers, it was the fifth game in the last week and their 14th of the season, tying them with the Chicago Bulls for the most games played this season.

And both teams were playing without backup guards.

Clippers reserve point guard Mo Williams (injured right foot) and Lakers reserve point guard Steve Blake (fracture of cartilage that connects the rib to the sternum) did not play.

The Clippers entered the game as the worst rebounding team in the league, averaging 37 per game.

It didn’t look good for them having to face a Lakers team that led the league in rebounding at 46.8 per game.

“The big thing for us is rebounding the ball,” Del Negro said. “They are long up front.”

By the half, the Clippers were controlling the backboards. They outrebounded the Lakers 35-22, and that held up over the entire game, the Clippers winning the board battle, 50-42.

The first quarter was rather eventful, and for reasons beyond the Clippers’ opening a 31-24 lead.

After Paul had been called for a foul on Morris out near the three-point line, Morris continued on to the basket for a dunk that didn’t count. While Morris was in the air, Griffin appeared to push him.

That raised the anger level of Lakers Coach Mike Brown, who got a technical foul called on him.



Four in a row

Kobe Bryant has scored at least 40 points in his last four games.

*--* Date Points Opponent, result Jan. 10 48 Def. Phoenix, 99-83 Jan. 11 40 Def. Utah, 90-87 (OT) Jan. 13 42 Def. Cleveland, 97-92 Jan. 14 42 L. to Clippers, 102-94 *--*