Author: John Krolik

Pau Gasol, DeAndre Jordan

Gasol, Bryant end Lakers’ losing streak, spoil Paul’s return to the court


The Los Angeles Clippers held the lead over the Lakers for most of the game on Wednesday night, but were unable to put the game away at any point, and ended up succumbing to the Lakers because of Pau Gasol’s aggressive play and yet another late-game takeover by a Mr. Kobe Bryant.

The Clippers got off to a hot start against the Lakers, and they might have gone into halftime with a double-digit lead if it weren’t for Pau Gasol’s excellent play. Gasol absolutely eviscerated the Clippers’ interior defense by making contested shots in the post, aggressive drives to the rim, attacking the offensive glass and swishing jumpers from both short and mid-range. Gasol came into Wednesday night’s game averaging just over 15 points a game — by halftime, he already had 17 points on 7-9 shooting.

After the game, Mike Brown, who mentioned both before and after the game that he had stopped a prior day’s practice to hug Gasol after he made an aggressive rim-run and get post position in transition, expressed how pleased he was with Gasol’s play, saying “he was impressive the whole night, whether he got the ball in the high or low post. We like to move him around; he’s a versatile guy, he’s a guy that doesn’t need to post all the time, he can face up and shoot jumpers, he can face up and take you off the dribble, he can pass the ball out of the post and you saw that all tonight. His aggressiveness was phenomenal.”

Gasol’s defense on Blake Griffin was also excellent — Griffin scored 4 of his first 5 baskets on 3 turnaround jumpers from the post and a spot-up jumper from midrange, but after Gasol allowed one dunk by biting on a Griffin shot-fake, he stayed grounded and refused to bite on any of Griffin’s shot-fakes, which allowed him to use his size advantage to bottle him up. Griffin finished with 26 points, but he didn’t make a free throw all game, needed 22 field goal attempts to get his points, and shot an abnormally good 6-10 on shots outside of the paint, so all in all Mike Brown has to have been pleased with the job he did on the Clippers’ superstar power forward.

While Gasol’s play kept the Lakers within striking distance for most of the game, it was, unsurprisingly, Kobe Bryant that triggered the run that ultimately gave the Lakers the win in the fourth quarter. Bryant made three fourth-quarter jumpers to put the Lakers up by one point with five minutes remaining, then pulled down a crucial offensive rebound minutes later and dished the ball to a wide-open Metta World Peace, who calmly swished the open three to give the Lakers a five-point lead and control of the game. With the Lakers up 2 with 40 seconds to play, Bryant lofted a perfect lob pass to Andrew Bynum, who made the catch, came down, and softly laid the ball in to officially put the game out of reach for Del Negro’s Clippers, whose late-game execution was absolutely miserable — on a key possession, a Clipper play out of a time-out resulted in Blake Griffin shooting a three, which he missed while getting called for stepping out of bounds.

While Chris Paul managed to dish out 12 assists in his 1st game back from a hamstring injury, he looked tentative on offense, and finished with only four points on 2-8 shooting from the field — in fact, Laker rookie guard Andrew Goudelock, who had a breakout 14-point performance, managed to handily outscore one of the best scoring point guards in the league. After the game, Mike Brown was glad that the Lakers made Paul “work for his shots” and noted that the Laker bigs did a very good job of getting up the floor on pick-and-rolls and not allowing Paul to have too much space to operate, which led to him having to go through two or more Laker defenders on each possession.

It was a chippy game, with a flagrant foul, six combined technical fouls, one ejection, and lots and lots of trash-talking between the two teams, but after the game neither the players or the coaches seemed to have an issue with the “chippiness” of the game, although nobody seemed eager to admit that the Lakers and Clippers are now rivals, either. The Clippers certainly played with intensity under the rim, but they were unable to make that intensity work for them — they finished the game with 15 fewer made free throws than the Lakers, and while they did a great job of grabbing offensive rebounds, they shot only 4-15 on 2nd-chance opportunities, something Mike Brown was very pleased about after the game.

Overall, it was a hard-fought game, and it looks like a fun new rivalry is brewing in the City of Angels, even if nobody will admit it. The Clippers have shown all season that they’re not just LA’s “other team” anymore, and continued to show it in the first three and a half quarters of Wednesday’s game, but when it was all said and done they simply didn’t have enough to hold off an apparently rejuvenated Gasol and a vintage close-out performance from a five-time NBA champion.

Del Negro “expects” Paul to play against Lakers

Chicago Bulls v Los Angeles Clippers
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According to the Los Angeles Times, Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro has announced that Chris Paul will start in tonight’s game against the Los Angeles Lakers:

Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro said he “expects” Chris Paul to start Wednesday night against the Lakers in their designated home game at Staples Center.

Paul had missed the last five games because of a strained left hamstring.

Del Negro said he didn’t know how many minutes Paul would play.

“I kind of have it in my mind a little bit,” Del Negro said. “But I want to see how he feels after I sit down and talk to him a little bit.”

Paul has missed the past 5 games with a hamstring injury. The Clippers have gone 3-2 in Paul’s absence.

Mike Brown talks about the Lakers’ offense

Utah Jazz v Los Angeles Lakers
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Since the Lakers hired Mike Brown in the off-season and abandoned the legendary triangle offense, the team has fallen from 7th to 16th in the league in offensive efficiency. Before Wednesday’s Lakers-Clippers tilt, Brown talked about the Lakers’ offensive struggles, saying that because of the veteran Lakers’ lack of speed, they “have to be an execution team,” saying “we’re a low-post/iso team.”

When asked about the chemistry between Andrew Bynum, who is currently enjoying a career year, and Pau Gasol, whose numbers have been down this season and recently said that he isn’t getting enough touches in the post, Brown said that his budding superstar center is learning how to pass out of double-teams and keep the offense flowing better, saying “it took Tim [Duncan] and Dwight [Howard] a year to get used to post double-teams.

When asked about the Lakers’ abysmal three-point shooting, Brown didn’t seem to think that a lack of good drive-and-kick or post-and-kick passing was the problems, saying “we’ve had some good looks.”

Brown also said that the team had been “a step slow” on rebounds and in transition, saying that they have been “slumping their shoulders” for the first step or two after turnovers when they “have to flat-out sprint as soon as the ball’s turned over.”

When asked about Pau’s concern that he wasn’t getting the ball in the post enough, Brown told reporters that when Gasol ran to the rim in the recent practice, established deep position, and made a short hook, he actually stopped practice and gave Gasol a hug.

The Lakers will have a chance to end their losing streak and right the ship offensively at “home” against the Clippers tonight, who are currently 23rd in defensive efficiency.