Los Angeles Lakers 108 - Los Angeles Clippers 95 - Kobe's Funny Bone Game

That was a funny game, in more ways than one. Not funny "ha ha." Funny strange. And funny bone.

During the first quarter, the Clippers made 11 of 21 shots - 10 of the 11 were jump shots, and 5 of those were threes. The Lakers were going through some hot shooting of their own, finishing the quarter shooting over 60%, and the period ended with the Clippers up a single point. When Randy Foye made his fourth three pointer of the quarter, I turned to ClipperMax and said "It's fool's gold. There's no way that the Clippers can continue to make all of these jump shots." Turns out, I was right.

After making 11 of 21 first quarter shots, the Clippers made just 4 of 21 in the second quarter. But here's one of those funny things I was mentioning about this game:

  • with an effective field goal percentage of over 64% in the first, the Clippers won the quarter by one point.
  • with an effective field goal percentage of 21% in the second, the Clippers lost the quarter by three points.

The Clippers couldn't build a lead in the first because the Lakers were even hotter in the quarter, and the Lakers couldn't really pull away in the second, though I'm not completely sure why not.

The contrast on the perimeter was even more stark, as the Clippers fortunes were almost completely opposite. After making those ten first quarter jumpers, they were zero for seven from beyond twelve feet in the second.

Down only two at halftime (thanks in part to a spectacular and wholly unexpected coast-to-coast dribble drive and layup by DeAndre Jordan to beat the buzzer as the first half ended), the Clippers seemed to perhaps have a chance. The fact that Kobe Bryant had left with a few minutes left in the first half grimacing in pain certainly seemed to improve their chances.

Unfortunately, the Clippers were almost as completely ice cold in the third quarter as they were in the second, while Kobe had one of those performances that pretty much he alone seems to have. Bryant had suffered an ulnar nerve contusion in the first half - that is, he hit his funny bone. Holding his right arm like dead weight, Kobe started the quarter doing his left-handed act. On his first touch, dribbling almost exclusively with his left, Foye pressured him into dribbling off his foot. On his second touch, he backed Foye down in the post, and turned to shoot a left-handed bank shot - which he missed. He looked on those first two possessions like he should not have been out there - he wasn't physically capable of playing well, and he was hurting his team. Like in the Princess Bride, he might be good left-handed, but surely a right-handed Shannon Brown is better. (In case you've missed it, in this analogy Brown is Inigo Montoya and Kobe is the Dread Pirate Roberts.)

And suddenly, he was fine. In fact, he was a lot better than fine. He took his first right handed shot of the quarter and knocked down a three. A few moments later he knocked down another one. He made jump shot after jump shot, against good pressure and from distance. He finished the quarter making 8 of 11 shots including those two threes, and scoring 18 points. He singlehandedly outscored the Clippers in the quarter, 18-17.

The Clippers on the other hand combined to make just 9 of 40 field goal attempts in the middle two quarters of the game, just 22.5%. As I suspected going in, with the Clippers missing their starting backcourt, the Lakers loaded up in the middle against Blake Griffin. After the jump shots stopped falling, it got pretty ugly. One of the best teams in the league in points in the paint, the Clippers were outscored 38 to 18 by the Lakers in this one. Certainly, the length of the Lakers defenders had a lot to do with that, but the Clippers also just missed shots. Griffin missed two dunks - I mean, just flat out dunks that he makes all the time, one on an alley oop and another on a follow. The first was so clearly happening, that Ralph was well into his signature "The lob, the slam" before he realized what had happened: "The lob, the sla... Oh he missed it!" Eric Bledsoe missed layups, Al-Farouq Aminu missed a dunk, Griffin failed to finish other chances beyond the dunks: it was just kind of weird. Maybe they were watching for the long arms of Bynum or Gasol. Maybe it was just one of those things. Griffin finished the game shooting just 7 for 18, and the vast majority of those makes were jumpers. He did finally make a couple of dunks in the second half. By the way, it's not entirely a coincidence that Griffin got so few easy looks in the first game since Baron Davis was traded. Baron was responsible for many of the clean looks Griffin got each game.

A few more notes on the game:

  • It's worth noting that Aminu was the first Clippers off the bench. He replaced Foye in the first quarter, and played extended minutes at shooting guard tonight. Obviously this is a short term situation, a reaction to how thin the Clippers are in the backcourt at present, but it's interesting to see the Vinny Del Negro has the confidence in AFA to put him in that situation.
  • Chris Kaman played only 19 minutes, after playing 25 on Wednesday. That seemed to be a function of Kaman not being particularly sharp in the first half. He played better in the second, but the game got out of hand and there was no reason to have him in there at that point. I really like the way Chris was rebounding and blocking shots in this game: he had 9 boards and 2 blocks in his 19 minutes.
  • DeAndre had 3 blocks as well. I think that blocked shots is the key stat for Jordan. When he's blocking shots, it means he's active, and when he's active he's doing other good things as well. D.J.'s activity in the first half was one of the main reasons the Clippers were still in the game, despite shooting just 36% in the first half.
  • Willie Warren played 9 minutes and Rasual Butler played 18. Butler made a couple of threes, which had to feel good: Warren had 4 assists, which is pretty good in 9 minutes, especially coming from a guy who was playing for Bakersfield last week. But having said nice things about each of them, let me also say this: hurry back, Eric Gordon, and hurry in Mo Williams. If Butler and Warren are forced to play, the Clippers are in trouble. Williams may be able to play tomorrow night against the Celtics, assuming Baron Davis completes his physical in Cleveland. Gordon is still a few days away.
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