|Final - 10.27.2009||1||2||3||4||Total|
|Los Angeles Clippers||22||27||26||17||92|
|Los Angeles Lakers||32||27||17||23||99|
As compared to a 38 point loss to the Lakers in the first game of the season a year ago, a 99-92 defeat in a game nobody expects you to win is relatively positive. And a couple of good things did in fact happen for the Clippers in this game. But there were some things areas of concern in the first game as well.
The roster is indeed deeper this time around. Even without the injured Blake Griffin, the Clippers bench outplayed the defending champs' reserves by a wide margin. Now, it must be noted that Pau Gasol did not play, forcing Lamar Odom into the starting lineup, but Phil Jackson was so distrustful of his bench that he played four of his starters between 38 and 41 minutes each. Meanwhile, Craig Smith with a dozen second quarter points and Sebastian Telfair with 8 points and 4 assists in 21 minutes were especially good for the Clippers. It's particularly nice to have an effective backup point guard - Telfair is a significant upgrade over the second string (and in several cases first string) points we've been watching the last few seasons.
Chris Kaman played well. Although Mr. Flippy did make an early appearance when Kaman missed a layup all by himself and threw two passes away in the first quarter, for the most part this was Kaman 2.0. The 18 points is nice, but the number that jumps out at me is 16 rebounds, 14 on the defensive glass. To me, defensive rebounding more than anything else distinguishes the good Kaman from the bad Kaman. A lot of people have forgotten that he was an automatic double-double until he got hurt two seasons ago. I do have one early season concern on Chris - the vast majority of his buckets came on the face up jumper. That's all well and good, and it's great that he's added that shot. But I don't remember him finishing a single back-to-the-basket post move in this game (he made one good one, but missed the shot). Is he becoming a face up shooter, to the exclusion of the rest of his varied offensive game?
Al Thornton rebounded well. It's only one game, but Al desperately needs to be a better rebounder this season, and nine rebounds in his first game of the season is a great start. Led by Kaman and Thornton, the Clippers outrebounded the Lakers tonight - not something that happened very frequently last season.
Eric Gordon looked very good. Gordon scored 21 points on 14 shots, and was actually +5 in his 33 minutes on the floor in a game the Clippers lost by seven. When Gordon picked up his second foul and went to the bench with 4 minutes left in the first quarter, the wheels came off for the Clippers temporarily. His ability to penetrate, to make shots or to create shots for his teammates, makes life a lot easier for the Clippers in the half court. It'll be nice when he starts getting some calls, but he probably has a better chance of doing so against someone other than Kobe Bryant.
Baron Davis 1 for 10. In the first regular season game of his big bounce back year, Baron scored 2 points. You know that's not what he wanted. How much was the foot bothering him? Who knows. But 10% shooting is brutal, and hard for a team to overcome. On the bright side, he did have 8 assists, and played hard on defense, often matched up against Bryant. But he was terrible shooting the ball, and after a while the Lakers were daring him to. It's something of a comfort that he's got an excuse for being bad this game - he was hurt - but at the same time, haven't we been here before? He played hurt last year, and was terrible as a result.
DeAndre Jordan was lost. After being one of the best players on the entire team throughout pre-season, Jordan once again looked lost out there. I'll readily admit that he's a victim of the high expectations he has inspired. I mean, can I really complain about 5 rebounds in 11 minutes? But he just didn't have much of an impact, and I expected him to.
20 turnovers. During one brief stretch at the end of the first quarter, the Clippers turned the ball over 8 times in 4 minutes. And most of them had nothing to do with good Laker defense. It was just sloppy passing and poor ball-handling, plain and simple. The Clippers have a chance to compete this season - but they must take care of the ball.
As for the game, one presumes that the Lakers would have responded to whatever run the Clippers put together and done enough to win - Kobe (33 points and 8 rebounds) looked to be in mid-season form intensity wise, and Andrew Bynum (26 and 13) and Lamar Odom (16 and 14) were both tremendous. But even so one wonders what might have happened had the Clippers not dug a big hole with all those turnovers.
One also wonders what MDsr was thinking with his first quarter substitutions. All of the talk in the wake of the Griffin injury was of front court depth, and how Smith and Jordan would get more minutes, and how both of them had played so well in pre-season. So when Marcus Camby picked up his second foul in the first quarter, I fully expected to see Smith come in. Instead, it was Rasual Butler. Then, a few minutes later when Gordon got his second, it was obvious that Butler would slide over to shooting guard and Smith would finally enter the game. Only that's not what happened, and we got our first look at Ricky Davis. Ricky was minus 6 in a measly 4 minutes, and it would have been worse than that had he not banked in a three. Why? Where was Smith? I mean, I know that Odom sometimes plays small forward, and that he would be a tough cover for Smith. But he's also a tough cover for Rasual Butler, as he showed. At any rate, the Lakers lead stretched from 3 to 13 in short order as the Clippers began turning it over on almost every possession. The fact that Smith started the second quarter and led a comeback for the team only makes the situation all the more frustrating. Ricky Davis? Why?
The Clippers battled back to within one point to start the fourth quarter, and actually had the ball with a chance to take the lead a couple of times. But early in the fourth, the Lakers and the refs seemed pretty determined to set things right. Early in the period, the Clippers lost a basket on a loose ball foul on Smith and another on an incorrect basket interference call on Jordan, while the whistles continued piling up against the Clippers. The Lakers used a 15-2 run to put the game out of reach. Overall, there were 27 fouls called against the Clippers, 15 against the Lakers, and the Lakers took 21 more free throws.
But as is often the case in the NBA, there's not really any time to brood on this game. Phoenix comes to town tomorrow night. Let's hope the good from this game sticks around and the bad gets better.