The Clippers earned a solid 115-104 win over the Lakers on Saturday afternoon at Staples Center. LAC was buoyed by dominant individual performances from Blake Griffin and Chris Paul, who combined to score 65 points on incredibly efficient 21-29 shooting from the floor.
The Lakers made things slightly uncomfortable after LAC came out guns-a-blazin’, and they were led by impressive performances from reserves Thomas Robinson and David Nwaba. Robinson finished with 16 points and nine boards, while Nwaba contributed a career-high 19 points.
Weird things tend to happen whenever the Clippers play a day game, and the beginning of this one was no exception. The home team jumped out to a quick 17-0 start, and the game legitimately looked like it was over after less than five minutes. The Clips got sloppy after that, though, and coughed the ball up a whopping seven times in the quarter as the Lakers battled back. LAL went on an 18-2 run of their own to pull within one following a pair of Thomas Robinson free throws late in the frame.
Speaking of Robinson, he changed the game upon entering the game before the eight-minute mark of the first quarter. The energetic former lottery pick injected life into the lifeless Lakers, and compiled eight points with eight boards in eight minutes in the first quarter alone. Five of his rebounds were on the offensive end.
The Lakers actually came back to take the lead early in the second on a jumper by noted Clipper killer Corey Brewer, only for Blake Griffin to seesaw the Clips back in front on an absurd desperation jumper against tight defense.
LAC would maintain a fairly steady cushion throughout the rest of the first half. Griffin was essentially getting whatever he wanted against the likes of Randle, though he wasn’t having much trouble against anybody the Lakers tried throwing his way. He connected on five of his seven shots over the first 24 minutes, with his lone two misses coming from beyond-the-arc. Griffin posted a game-high 16 points heading into halftime, with Chris Paul chiming in with 11 of his own. The Clips had a 55-50 lead at the break.
The Lakers got a couple of quick buckets to begin the third before the Clips started to put the clamps down defensively. LAC went on a 12-3 run to stretch the lead to 71-57 about midway through the period. Griffin and CP3 continued to absolutely shred whatever’s left of the Lakers defense, combining for 22 points in the third alone. Griffin drilled a couple of threes along the way, while Paul’s relentless aggressiveness led to a parade to the free-throw line.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the Clips’ surge in the third was that they were doing almost no damage inside. Just 12 of their 93 points through three quarters came in the paint. They went 10-22 from three-point range and 23-29 from the foul line. To compare, the Lakers had just four triples and 20 free-throw attempts through three.
Following a few empty possessions to start the final quarter, Doc Rivers wasted little time in getting a few of the regulars back on to the floor. Griffin and JJ Redick returned less than two minutes into the period, but the Clippers continued to let the Lakers hang around.
Robinson, Brandon Ingram and David Nwaba were giving the Clips some problems defensively. Nwaba opened the frame with back-to-back putbacks off of offensive rebounds, while Ingram canned a quick seven points of his own. Nwaba scored again to close the gap to eight points.
Fortunately for the Clippers, Griffin was a man possessed. A dunk on a beautiful pass on the baseline from Redick stretched the lead back to 10 before Griffin converted a driving layup through traffic plus the foul to bring his total to 36 points on the night. That was effectively the kill shot for the Lakers.
This win probably wasn’t as easy as it should’ve been for the Clippers, but wins are wins at this stage of the season. The odd start time tends to lead to some screwy basketball, and we certainly saw that in this one. Fortunately, it seems as though Griffin’s slump is behind him. This was the second straight game in which he’s scored at least 30 points, and it’s the first time he’s accomplished that feat on the year.
The starters did the vast majority of the damage for LAC, as the bench combined to score just 19 points compared to the whopping 55 points the Lakers got from their backups. The Clips did shoot an excellent 55 percent from the field and 44 percent from three-point land, while the Lakers were held to just 26 percent shooting from deep.
There are only four games left for the Clippers in the regular season, and this victory temporarily brings them to within a game of Utah for the No. 4 seed. LAC gets a nice little break here, with their next game not coming until Wednesday when they host the Dallas Mavericks.