While the Clippers made the biggest off-season splashes in L.A., the Lakers sat back in the shadows, licking their Dwight Howard-inflicted wounds. The Clips banners featured a return of their superstar. The Lakers were begging one to come back. The Clippers made their statement by covering the Lakers championship banners. The Lakers gave their answer loud and proud Tuesday night.
Behind 76 points from the Lakers bench including the final 48 of the game, the Bench Mob out ran, out shot, out hustled, and out played the Clippers starters for the majority of the fourth quarter en route to a 116-103. Five of the six Lakers off the bench scored in double figures, all played at least 18 minutes, and the Lakers starters didn’t sniff the floor once in the final period. Jordan Farmar captained the back-ups and finished with 16 points, 6 assists, and 4 rebounds, getting timely baskets throughout the fourth. Jordan Hill’s huge night saw him pour in 12 points, grab 7 offensive rebounds, and dominate the Clippers front line throughout that final, decisive quarter.
When Nick Young hit a lay-up while getting fouled with 4:37 remaining in the third, no one could have predicted that would be the final points by the Lakers starters. The second unit opened the fourth quarter with a 32-12 run, never trailed after taking the lead with 9:06 remaining, and gave fans at the Staples Center something to cheer for. A slew of lay-ups, three pointers, hustle buckets, and defensive stops fueled the Lakers five throughout the quarter, who were unphased by matching up against the Clippers starters throughout the quarter.
The Bench Mob’s fantastic game will certainly overshadow Pau Gasol, who scored 11 straight points for L.A. to start the game. His 13 rebounds were both a team and game high and Gasol was the focal point of the Lakers offense throughout much of the first half. Still, the Lakers 14 three pointers were 6 more than the Clippers, and 9 of those threes came from the bench players. The 33 rebound by the bench were key in out-rebounding the Clippers 52-40 overall. And maybe most impressive, they finished with just 3 turnovers in the fourth quarter and none in the first 9:36 seconds of the period.
Everything comes back to the bench.
Jodie Meeks hit step-back and pull-up 3s. Henry was nearly unstoppable at the rim, fearing not of Jordan or Blake Griffin. Farmar shared the same fearlessness, attacking the rim and finishing over and through the Clippers big men. Hill didn’t care if he was under-sized as he ripped down more offensive rebounds than any Clipper not named Jordan had in total rebounds. Even Wesley Johnson, who finished the night an abysmal 1 of 11, kept firing away and buried his own three, a sort of dagger late in the fourth.
It’ll be one of the games that fans will not soon forget. A spirited effort by a seemingly undermanned and under-talented Lakers squad dethroned the self-proclaimed kings of Los Angeles. Missing their superstar, few expected more than a .500 record. A city long seen as the Lakers town was switching to a lighter shade of blue. But for one night, 15 players, a handful of coaches, and a stadium of fans thought otherwise. And after tonight, Los Angeles is purple and gold once more.