Lakers Comeback Falls Short Against Clippers; 107-102

Los Angeles Lakers v Los Angeles ClippersThe Los Angeles Lakers played their cross-town rivals tonight in the latest installment of the battle of Los Angeles. The Lakers have had the upper hand against the Clippers for many years now, but in 2012-13, the Clippers have been the far better team.

Heading into tonight’s game, the Clippers held a nine game lead over the Lakers in the Pacific Division and were tied for the top spot in the Western Conference. There was no doubt the Clippers were the better team and the Lakers needed to come out strong in order to change some opinions.

The Lakers entered the game below .500 and they needed to beat the “other” L.A. team in order to regain some of their confidence.

First Quarter

The energy level in the arena was amazing and the fans were fully prepared to see an engaging match between two hard-nose teams. There was a great mixture of Lakers and Clippers fans in the crowd and Staples Center was truly a house divided.

The Clippers got off to a fast start to the game and they did a great job exploiting the Lakers in the paint. The Clippers were playing much better than the Lakers on the offensive end and they understood what they had to do to get the looks they wanted. The Lakers could not stop the Clippers in the open court and they faced a 12-6 deficit with 8:24 left in the first quarter.

The Lakers caught a break mid-way into the opening quarter when Blake Griffin picked up his second foul and was forced to sit on the bench. Griffin and the Clippers played with much more energy than the Lakers in the opening part of the quarter and there was little the Lakers were doing to stop the surge.

However, the Lakers had trouble gaining ground on the Clippers and stringing together successful possession despite the fact that Griffin was on the bench. Even though the Lakers had some nice buckets on the offensive end, they were not able to stop the Clippers from scoring. Defense has been an area of concern for the Lakers this season and that weakness was evident in the first quarter. At the 3:52 mark of the period, the Lakers were down 19–13.

At the end of the first quarter, the Lakers faced a seven-point deficit, 29-22, despite Kobe Bryant’s strong quarter. Bryant finished the period with six points and three steals, while Dwight Howard put in nine points and three rebounds.

Second Quarter

The Clippers came out in the second quarter on fire and the Lakers had absolutely no answer for Chris Paul. Paul was torching the Lakers from everywhere on the court and he was finding his teammates open for great looks. Less than two minutes into the period, the Clippers went on a 6-0 run and opened up a 35-22 lead.

The Lakers had trouble finding any flow to their offense and the players were unable to connect on wide open attempts. The Lakers were not playing with any continuity and there was no sense of cohesion with the players on the court. The Clippers on the other hand, were clicking on all cylinders and their energy level allowed them to make great defensive stops and benefit from second chance opportunities.

At the 6:12 mark of the period, the Lakers faced a 45-30 deficit and all the momentum was on the Clippers’ side. The Lakers did put together some nice offensive possessions, but they were still struggling on the defensive end.

The Lakers did make a small run to get back into a reasonable margin with some of the Clippers stars on the bench, and the surge was led by Bryant and Jodie Meeks. The Clippers got their starters back on the court, but the Lakers did a great job continuing their hot streak. Bryant was determined to get his Lakers back in striking distance, and thanks to an 11-0 run at the 3:00 mark, the Lakers got back within five, 48-43.

The Clippers closed out the period very well and they regained the momentum they had lost just minutes ago. The Lakers did a nice job cutting the initial deficit down to a reasonable margin, but the Clippers returned to their dominate ways and ended the half ahead 61-51. Bryant led the Lakers in scoring with 14 points in the opening half, but Chris Paul was much better with 12 points and 11 assists.

Third Quarter

The Lakers got off to a fast start in the third quarter and the team was playing much better on the offensive end. The Lakers were able to get nice looks at the basket and they once again took control of the momentum. There was also an added level of intensity on the Lakers’ side and they put together a 7-0 run to bring the deficit down to three, 61-58, at the 9:50 mark.

However, the Clippers responded to the Lakers’ run with one of their own and they brought the lead back up to double-digits. Just when it seemed like the Lakers would possibly make a surge for the lead, the Clippers shifted into a different gear and got back to their previous form. With 5:36 remaining in the period, the Clippers opened up a ten point lead, 72-62.

There was nothing the Lakers could do to stop Griffin from attacking the paint and the Lakers’ big men had problems containing his strength and athleticism. The Lakers were not having a lot of trouble scoring the ball, but their defensive focus and intensity was laughable. There were constant lapses on the defensive end and they were the main reasons why the Lakers could not cut into the Clippers’ lead.

After 36 minutes of play, the Lakers faced a 87-71 deficit and time was surely running out for struggling Lakers team.

Fourth Quarter

The Lakers once again had a nice start to the period and their 7-0 run allowed them to cut into the deficit. The Lakers were trailing by 12 points, 92-80, but they had been in this position before. Just like in the previous period, the Lakers made life difficult for the Clippers for a few minutes but they could not keep up their level of play and allowed the Clippers to regain the momentum.

Surprisingly, the Lakers continued with their nice play and it seemed like they were in control of the game. Bryant kept on punishing the Clippers with his perimeter shooting and he helped bring the Lakers back within single-digits. Kobe was very active on both ends of the court, and with a little less than six minutes left in the game, the Lakers were down by nine points, 96-87.

The Clippers resorted to using the “Hack a Howard” method with minutes remaining in the game, hoping to stop the momentum the Lakers’ built. However, the team only used the tactic for one possession and that allowed the Lakers to play with more confidence and freedom on the offensive end. Still, with 3:00 left in the game and a 99-91 deficit, the Lakers were running out of time for one final push.

In the final three minutes of the game, the Lakers took complete control and the Lakers fans in the crowd finally had reason to cheer. The Lakers rode Bryant’s hot hand and he helped bring the Lakers within two points with just 1:29 left in the game. After facing a double digit deficit for most of the game, the Lakers were in striking distance and needed a great final minute in order to steal the win.

However, Dwight Howard fouled out of the game and the Lakers lost their defensive anchor, and essentially lost the game at the same time. The Lakers’ deficit was too large to overcome and they could not make enough defensive stops to complete the major comeback.

As the final buzzer rang, the Clippers walked off the court winners, 107-102.

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