About Last Night: Clippers complete comeback over Lakers

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When Blake Griffin called this Lakers team dangerous, he must’ve been speaking through spiritual channels, predicting how yesterday’s affair would go.

Much like last season, the superior Clippers were forced to go down to the wire with Lakers team whose best days were past them. The difference? This time, the Clippers pulled off the victory, but for a team who is expected to contend for a NBA championship, things were ugly.

Through the first three quarters, the Clippers and Lakers looked like teams who were even in talent. Kobe Bryant looked like his old self, Jordan Hill decided to be Dirk Nowitzki for Halloween (23 points, 10-of-15 shooting), knocking down several jump shots, and Jeremy Lin was good Jeremy Lin.

The turning point after an unimpressive three quarters from the Clippers? A boost from Jamal Crawford off the bench to compliment Blake Griffin’s scoring binge. The extra threat changed things and amidst a regression to the statistical norm for the Lakers, the Clippers were able to pull ahead.

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  • Combined, Griffin, Crawford, and J.J. Redick outscored the Lakers 26-21, 14 of the points coming from Crawford who managed to hit 8-of-9 free throws in the quarter.

    While not being mentioned above after a meh offensive performance by his own standards, Chris Paul‘s impact came on the defensive end when tasked to guard Kobe Bryant in the last minutes of the game.

    With Rivers trotting out a three-guard lineup of Paul, J.J. Redick, and Jamal Crawford, Paul was tasked with guarding Kobe Bryant for the final 9 minutes of the quarter. And somehow, it worked, with Bryant shooting 1-0f-7 during that nine minute stretch to close out the game.

    Thinking about it, Paul is the Clippers best defender right now. While DeAndre Jordan gets the bulk of the love for his ability to protect the paint and block shots, his inconsistencies keep him from joining the ranks of elite defenders in the game. But Paul? We saw it in last years opening round against Stephen Curry, we saw it when tasked to front Kevin Durant in the semi-finals on multiple possessions, and again tonight against Kobe Bryant.

    This isn’t an ideal strategy and likely one of that will vary game-to-game (for example: Doc Rivers wouldn’t likely put Paul on a LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony-esque figure), but it worked tonight and will be something to keep an eye on if Matt Barnes, Chris Douglas-Roberts, and Reggie Bullock can’t get on the floor in crunch-time minutes.

    ***

    One thing that’s for sure is that it’s not time to worry. Two games — and even the preseason — isn’t a large enough sample size to draw conclusions, but this is the perfect time to point out trends:

    • the small forward position needs a jolt,
    • the defense needs to improve, both on the perimeter and in the paint,
    • and, the three-point shooting needs to improve

    Sound familiar? Of course it does because these same issues plagued the team last season.

    Next up on the schedule? The Sacramento Kings. They may not be a good team, but between the DeMarcus Cousins-Blake Griffin rivalry and Darren Collison likely wanting to stick it to his former team in the Clippers, it’ll be a good one … depending on which Clippers team shows up.

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