That is why the banners hang in Staples Center. The Lakers are a franchise that always seeks to win, even when the talent may not be considered championship caliber. This reminds me of the post- Magic Johnson era, where guys like Sedale Threatt and Anthony Peeler would step up in games and win against the Chicago Bulls during the regular season, or give the early 90s Phoenix Suns a 1st round playoff scare winning two games in Phoenix before going home in the best of five series.
This team has energy, grit, and doesn’t give up. You can tell they look out for each other and each of them spend time in the spotlight making critical plays.
During the 1st Quarter, Pau Gasol scored or assisted on the first 13 Laker points. He scored 11 of them on a variety of jumphooks, midrange jumpshots, and even a 3-pointer. The Clippers looked to get J.J. Redick started early and he did. He curled off many screens and used shotfakes to free himself up. He started out on fire, with the initial sequence of scoring having the Clippers up by 3, 16-13. At the 4:24 mark, Farmar, Henry, and Johnson substituted in. From there, the pace of the game increased, the energy was elevated, and Henry was able to break free for a transition dunk. Kaman had a few good opportunities and exploited his midrange game. The score was 30-28, Lakers down 2, end of the 1st.
The 2nd Quarter had Jordan Hill in the game. Wesley Johnson couldn’t find his shot early, but he was aggressive with his straight-line drives to the basket. While he didn’t finish well in the paint, Hill was there to clean up. Henry attacked the basket at the 9:01 mark to draw an And-1 situation. He hit a spot up 3 as well. The Clippers had Griffin exploited more in the post, punishing Johnson, Henry, Gasol, and Kaman. The Lakers showed late in pick-and-roll sequences, and Griffin simply outpowered defenders. Nash finally took a shot, which resembled Kobe’s 3-pointer vs. Dallas a few years ago. He drove wide right, got spacing from the defender, faded to his right, and banked in the 3. The bank is open on Tuesday. The Lakers were down 57-55 at the half.
At the half, the Clippers were on fire, shooting 59% from the field, getting the shots they wanted. The Lakers played with energy and pushed for pace. This led to some ill-advised shots and had the team shooting 42%. No doubt a few 3-pointers kept them in the game.
At the beginning of the 3rd quarter, the Lakers came out flat with energy and the Clippers were having a dunkfest. They started with a 6-0 run to start the quarter with Griffin and Jordan acting out lob city. The Lakers were looking to get Shawne Williams started behind the arc, but he couldn’t find his shooting groove. If he did, his jumpers would have opened the game up much earlier. At this point, the Lakers were shooting 36% from inside the arc, but 50% outside of it. The bench had already exceeded last years average bench points. They finished with 30 bench points at the end of the 3rd. Last year’s team averaged 26. By the end, the Lakers were down 79-75.
With the 4th quarter starting, the bench players were in. Farmar, Henry, Meeks, Hill, and Johnson finished out the game. Henry started with a stutter step and crossover combination which led to an And-1 situation. He assisted to Farmar for a 3 pointer, which cut the lead to 1 point. Meeks got out in transition with a semi-eurostep move, and was able to tie the game at 83. The energy of the bench play was infections. They switched defensively on pick and roll plays. They neutralized Griffin’s play in the post with double teams from multiple angles. Crawford was struggling to hit consistently from the field with shots he usually makes. Henry made a 3-pointer to extend the lead 85-89. Wesley Johnson hit a 3-pointer to cap off a 14-3 run. But, the highlight of the game, which ties into the identity of the team, is Farmar out in transition, pushing the ball up court, meeting DeAndre Jordan at the rim, and getting the layup over a swat waiting to happen. That shot deflated the Clipper team and increased the Laker lead 89-98. After a Henry layup, a Jordan Hill reverse step jumphook, and a bankshot from Hill at 19′, the game was over. By then the score was 91-106, with the Clippers out of hand. Chris Paul was never really in sync with pick and roll execution. Griffin didn’t react well to double teams. DeAndre Jordan missed his free throws. Henry and Meeks again capped off the night with a 3-pointer each to cap off an 19-6 run. 116-103. Game over.