On a day that is highlighted by the opening of presents, the Los Angeles Clippers opened up a big one by beating the Los Angeles Lakers in the last game of the NBA’s Christmas Day schedule. The good guys never trailed, and looked as if their best effort was not needed. Their B-game was sufficient enough. The win over their STAPLES Center brethren leaves the Clippers at 17-13 on the year, and it ends a three-game losing skid. It was the best present we could have hoped for, except for a few moments that tried our patience.
The Clippers did to a bad team what you’re supposed to do to a bad team – go up by a margin so large you can somehow survive even if your bench unit nearly blows what seemed like an insurmountable lead. The largest lead of the evening for the Clippers was 28 points, which came after three quarters. The largest lead for the Lakers was, well, nothing. They never led. However, it was the manner in which the Clippers won tonight that might be of some concern. Throughout the season, the team has had trouble closing games out. Tonight was no different. Despite that huge lead, the Clippers just couldn’t resist allowing the Lakers to get within 7 points with roughly four minutes to play. A win is a win, but tonight’s game speaks volumes about a larger issue that seems to be plaguing the team in a massive way.
It’s becoming an all too concerning theme this season: Doc Rivers plays Jamal Crawford and Paul Pierce far too many minutes together, and then acts shocked when bad things start to happen to the team on the court. Look, the philosophy makes sense. They’re veterans, so they get some extra leeway if they make some mistakes. However, this notion that they’re just going to turn around how they’re playing is hogwash. It’s time to try something new. Also, can he really be shocked that the bench doesn’t play well when he's playing three bad defensive players at the same time? For the second straight game, Josh Smith got a DNP-CD for reasons known only to the people in the locker room. On a night like tonight, it seems like Smith could have helped. But, alas, common sense didn’t prevail. Sure, a win happened. However, at what cost?
Chris Paul led the way with a game-high 23 points. The magnificent point guard also had 6 assists, 5 rebounds, and 3 steals on 11-of-19 shooting. He was the best player on the floor. Blake Griffin had 13 points, 12 rebounds, and game-high 7 assists, but only shot 6-of-17. DeAndre Jordan had 9 points and a game-high 14 rebounds. Luc Mbah a Moute nailed two threes, finished with 6 points, and was a +15. J.J. Redick was 5-of-12 from the field, but nailed 3 of his 8 attempts from deep to finish with 14 points. He also had 3 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 steal. The starting lineup played 20 minutes tonight, and they finished with a +28.8 Net Rating in that time.
Surprise surprise, the bench was awful. Jamal Crawford was just 4-of-10, and he finished with 13 points. Lance Stephenson was just 1-of-5, but nailed a three to finish with just 3 points. Cole Aldrich had 0 points and 0 rebounds a game after looking good. Pablo Prigioni hit his only shot, a three, to finish with 3 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 steal. Paul Pierce had just 2 points on a woeful 1-of-6 shooting, and he’s now connecting on just 24.7 percent of his long range attempts. Former Laker Wesley Johnson had his revenge game, tallying 8 points on 3-of-5 from the field. He nailed two threes, and even told the crowd to quiet down after he hit one in the fourth quarter. So, it was a good night for Wesley.
For the Lakers, rookie D’Angelo Russell led the way with a team-high 16 points. He also hauled in 7 rebounds and picked up 2 steals, but did have 4 turnovers and just 1 assist. He played well, though. Kobe Bryant shot 4-of-10 and finished with 12 points in his final Christmas Day game, but he was pretty nonexistent outside of one hot stretch in the second quarter. Larry Nance Jr. had 6 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 assists. Roy Hibbert had 8 points, 3 rebounds, and 1 assist. The starting backcourt of Lou Williams and Jordan Clarkson combined for 18 points on 14 shots, but Williams was just 1-of-5 while Clarkson was 4-of-9. Neither had a particularly good night.
Julius Randle had 11 points, 8 rebounds, 3 steals, and 2 assists off the bench, but did have 3 turnovers and shot just 3-of-11. His jumper is still a massive work in progress. Former Clipper Nick Young was 0-of-5 on the night and finished with nothing in the scoring column. Brandon Bass was 3-of-5 for 7 points, and Marcelo Huertas had 6 points on 3-of-4. The Lakers bench got them back into the game in the fourth quarter, but could not trim it any closer than that 7-point deficit.
Clippers are in Salt Lake City to take on the Utah Jazz tomorrow night.