After three disappointing losses in a row, the Los Angeles Lakers losing streak is officially over after Kobe Bryant and company were able to get the best of the division rival Los Angeles Clippers in the second showdown of the Battle for Los Angeles this season, 96-91.
Not only were the Lakers able to avenge the Jan. 14 loss (102-94) to the revamped Clippers, but Kobe Bryant and company began to really come together in this game with some solid team chemistry on both ends of the floor. This game was by no means a flawless performance by Mike Brown’s squad as the Lakers did struggle to keep up with the young and faster Clippers led by Chris Paul.
With Chris Paul getting his first minutes on the floor for Vinny Del Negro since Jan. 14 when these two teams met for the first time in the NBA regular season, the Lakers were in trouble as this time around they didn’t have Steve Blake (rib injury) to help shoulder the load in the backcourt. Despite Paul returning from the hamstring injury and dishing out a game-high 12 assists, the perennial All-Star point guard struggled offensively with just four points on 2-of-8 shooting in 27 minutes.
Mo Williams picked up the slack for a rusty Chris Paul in 23 minutes off the bench with 16 points, but that wasn’t enough to keep the Lakers at bay late in the game. With arguably the best performance of the season from the Lakers’ Big 3 collectively, Kobe Bryant (24 points, 7 turnovers), Pau Gasol (23 points, 10 rebounds) and Andrew Bynum (19 points, 6 rebounds and 4 blocks) led the way for the Lakeshow on Wednesday night.
Blake Griffin had a solid game with 26 points (game-high) and nine boards, but his high-fly act wasn’t enough to lead the up-and-coming Clippers to a second win on the season over the soon-to-be arch division rival Lakers. Metta World Peace didn’t make much of an impact in terms of numbers in the stat sheet (3 points, 5 rebounds and 7 assists), but he really lifted the Lakers in this game and lit a fire that helped this team get the win. Rookie Andrew Goudelock was also impressive off the bench with 14 points (2-for-3 from deep) in 20 minutes on the floor.
This game did get physical and scrappy at times as the rivalry gets more and more heated with both teams on the verge of getting out of control. Pau Gasol (one technical foul), Josh McRoberts (two technicals, ejected) and Kobe Bryant (one technical foul) were all T’d up by the refs as well as Reggie Evans (one technical) and Chauncey Billups (one technical).
Fortunately, no fights or scuffles broke out at Staples Center on Wednesday night with the Lakers tying up the season series to one game apiece. One thing is for sure though; this is quickly turning into a real rivalry to watch in the NBA with both teams having no love lost for one another.
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Next Lakers Game: Los Angeles Lakers at Milwaukee Bucks Sat. Jan. 28 5:30 p.m. PST
Battle of Los Angeles (Part 3): Los Angeles Lakers at Los Angeles Clippers Weds. Apr. 4 7:30 p.m. PST