An early scoring exhibition gave way to a joyless slog as the Clippers used a pair of lopsided runs to put the Lakers away, 103-81. It was the Clippers' 10th straight victory against their in-house rivals.
The Clippers played much of the final three and a half quarters at half speed, and how can you blame them? With a handful of games remaining, staying healthy was more important than blowing away a clearly outgunned opponent. And, by the score at least, they did it anyway.
The Lakers played at full speed, which might as well be half speed given their ineptitude. Ugly possessions at both ends of the court kept them from climbing back against a Clipper team that packed it in early.
When the Clippers were engaged, they were en fuego, opening a 20-2 lead midway through the first quarter. Chris Paul tallied 13 points and 5 assists on his way to 25 and 8 for the game against an overmatched D'Angelo Russell. Then the Clippers did it again with a 24-5 run to begin the third. Paul was again the primary catalyst, making 5 of the Clippers' first 6 field goals.
It was during the bench's first-half minutes that the offense stopped clicking and the shots stopped falling. Blame can be shared by most of the bench, with all five reserves finishing the first half in the minus, even Jeff Green, who had a tidy 11 points on his way to 21 total. Turnovers weren't the issue either, just poor shot selection and conversion. The Lakers closed to within single digits for most of the second quarter.
For the Lakers, the unlikely hero was Metta World Peace, who entered the night two years past being washed up but found the rejuvenation machine on his way to STAPLES Center. His energy on both sides of the ball was unique in a game with little meaning to both sides. He finished with a team-high and season-high 17 points.
Perhaps the two players who entered the game with the most attention were the two LA franchises' respective stars, one returning and the other departing. Blake Griffin, in just his second game back from a prolonged injury-absence, remained tentative. The offense frequently rotated around him rather than through him, and in the instances when he did have the ball in his hands, he usually declined to shoot. He scored just 4 points in 17 minutes on 1-7 shooting.
The other star, of course, is Kobe Bryant, who made his final appearance on Clipper-colored hardwood, even earning some MVP chants while shooting a pair of early free throws. After a Clippers-produced farewell video that showed the many scoring highlights of the Kobe of old, this old Kobe shot 2-for-12 and scored just 6 points in 22 minutes. He's clearly laboring on the floor and will continue to do so through the final five games of his career, but you already knew that. He never found Metta's rejuvenating secret. The fans certainly wanted him though, chanting his name and "We want Ko-be" throughout the final quarter.
Most of the Laker starters struggled, even their presumptive young stars. Julius Randle missed all 6 of his field goal attempts. Jordan Clarkson tallied 10 on 4-of-13 shots. The aforementioned Russell, who should start slipping past screens instead of slamming into them and hunting for offensive fouls, plunked his way to 12 points on 4-of-17 shooting, maintaining poor body language throughout.
The Clippers received typically workmanlike performances from JJ Redick (9 points, 4-for-6 shooting) and DeAndre Jordan (14 rebounds).
If tonight's malaise wasn't enough for you, they'll
run jog it back tomorrow.
Highlight of the night:
There were several choices, but since I'm usually picking on Jeff Green, let's give him some credit for this monster of a first-quarter dunk:
Jeff Green posters coming soon to a store near you. https://t.co/IXo2XRiTts— LA Clippers (@LAClippers) April 6, 2016