The buzz in Staples was palpable, an energy that was undoubtedly anachronistic yet nonetheless readily appropriate for such a heavily anticipated preseason game. A Lakers/Clippers match-up in years past spurred onlookers to absolute boredom, the perfect representation of the NBA’s great divide in parity. But the Clippers in recent weeks have staked their claim to destiny, even if only nominally. The match-up between these two teams would set forth a rivalry that has not been seen in Los Angeles, and signals a changing of the times, whether for better or for worse.
The game started as expected, with the Lakers looking seemingly confused in terms of offense, but Kobe came out very aggressively and hit his first shot. The Lakers pushed their offense very quickly, so much so that it seemed rushed in comparison to the relative laxity of the triangle. Brown’s desire to set up quickly seems a message that the team took to heart. More often than not, one would see Bynum or Gasol out on the perimeter, probably not the result that coach Brown wanted.
The newbies played well, exhibiting flashes of potential despite their obvious nervousness. McRoberts threw down a huge dunk on a Kobe alley-oop, and rookie Darius Morris seemed very comfortable handling the ball, pulling off a few Kobe “I-can’t-believe-he-hit that” shots of his own.
But reserves are reserves for a reason. Kapono looked as lost as a second grader in an algebra class, and were it not for the hustle of his teammates he would have undoubtedly turned the ball over more than a handful of times. In fact, hustle seemed to help this bench unit more than anything, as they racked up a few extra possessions off of offensive rebounds. McRoberts passed very well, and was always very involved in the play. It was encouraging to see that Darius Morris was determined to make an impact, not fading under the bright lights in the arena. All in all, it was good to see the bench preserve the score, as opposed to relinquishing it.
On the boards, the Lakers looked extremely aggressive, crowding the paint and forcing the Clippers’ big men further and further out.
Their pick and roll defense looked atrocious, however.
Chris Paul had his way in the paint, and too often penetration led to open jumpers on the outside. The defense looked a little lost, and very much out of sync. It was too often that a big man would find himself guarding Chris Paul, and the mismatch was inevitably exploited.
Kobe continued to be aggressive for much of the game, even dangerously so, as he often dove recklessly into the trees. While it was encouraging to see his confidence, it’s also disconcerting to see the team superstar hit the deck, and hard. Free throws can’t help if you break your wrist to get them.
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