Chris Paul grabbed the long rebound, took a couple full-speed strides up the court, and skipped a bounce pass to himself through the legs of Carlos Boozer, who was hastily and futilely retreating. And so, with that play, an ordinary rout transformed into something of a one-team All-Star Game.
In no surprise to any basketball-literate Angeleno, the Clippers systematically disassembled the Lakers on this Easter night. Blake Griffin led all scorers with 18, DeAndre Jordan chipped in 18 and 11, Chris Paul dished 15 assists in 30 minutes, and the Clippers ran away with a 106-78 victory.
The home team simply had no answer for the Clippers' ball movement. With legs deadened by last night's blowout in Denver, the Clippers played large portions of this game at half-speed, which was twice as fast as the Lakers' young defenders could react. The Clippers didn't need to waste gas with athletic drives or physical post-ups. They fired the ball around the court, inside and out, and more often than not, found themselves yards away from the nearest defender.
The Lakers' defensive rotations meandered. Their routes were so slow and predictable that the Clippers frequently bypassed the intermediate pass and Gretzky-assist and looked straight to the open man in the corner. Matt Barnes benefited and converted 4 of 7 three-point attempts on his way to 14 points for the night. It was like the Lakers were mimicking good defense instead of actually trying to play it. You could call the Clippers hot from outside, but that's like saying a hitter catches fire in batting practice. If some parts of this matchup resembled the All-Star game, others resembled the 3-point shooting contest.
It was easy pickings for the Clippers at the other end of the court, as well. They harassed the Lakers into 17 turnovers and 38.7% shooting. They made the heralded Jordan Clarkson disappear -- he finished with two points. His backcourt mate, Jeremy Lin, managed just six points and was quite literally flattened on multiple occasions. Wesley Johnson, who Byron Scott diagrammed into an lightly-contested airball to close the first half, led the home team with 16 points, taking 16 shots to get there.
Perhaps the most astonishing indicator of tonight's Clipper dominance came courtesy of the (justifiably) oft-maligned bench. Take a moment and treat yourself to the plus-minus numbers in the box score. Hedo Turkoglu and Glen Davis each finished +double-digits. Austin Rivers was +26 in 21 minutes. +26! He probably hasn't done that since AAU ball.
In fact, the Lakers trailed by just six when the last Clipper starter left the floor in the first quarter. Over the next five minutes, the Clipper reserves increased the lead by one. They actually increased the lead!
All in all, it was a productive night. The starters got some target practice, the bench built some confidence, and the deep bench got some precious burn. Let's do it again Tuesday.
Some other (mostly serious) things I noticed:
- Hedo Turkoglu had himself a bad first half. His six-minute numbers don't cry out from the box score, but his on-court play was atrocious. He passed up a wide-open jumper so he could dribble into a contested fadeaway. He airmailed a pass past Lester Hudson like Eli Manning. He gacked a defensive rebound out of bounds with no Laker even on the same side of half-court. It was a shift he'd surely like to forget.
- Glen Davis, high flyer? When did Big Baby decide he was Blake Griffin? Not long ago, I saw him sky for a Jordan dunk that thudded against the front of the rim. Tonight, he flew like a flat balloon trying for a tip-slam, only the ball never came near him. If only he could get his fingers above the rim. Davis' energy is infectious, and these plays are funny on nights like tonight, when there's little else to write about. I'd rather not write about such plays in the playoffs.