The Lakers defeated the Clippers 113-108 in a fun but contentious battle for LA. Make no mistake about it, despite what the players said, both teams wanted this win badly. At stake is the top seed in the Pacific Division and, potentially, home-court advantage in a head-to-head matchup. And the chipiness was definitely supported by the NBA who subsequently upgraded a pushing foul on Blake Griffin to a flagrant-one foul.
In the breakdown it’s evident that both teams, while talented and dangerous, have offensive and defensive issues that need to be resolved in order to advance in the playoffs:
The Lakers continue to struggle with pick-and-roll defense. Too often, the screener’s man is forced to switch on to the opposing team’s point guard, causing all sort of matchup nightmares. In this case, Chris Paul could blow right by Gasol or Bynum, exposing the Lakers below average weakside help. If Mike Brown would play ICE against the sideline pick and rolls, forcing Chris Paul to the baseline and the screener’s man sinking back in the lane to contain, they would eliminate the need to rotate on the weakside AND the mismatch of Bynum guarding Paul.
Defensively, the Clippers had no answer for Andrew Bynum. For the most part, they played Bynum with single coverage and he consistently scored over DeAndre Jordan. Either they miscalculated Jordan’s defense or they’re okay with Bynum having a huge night so that others don’t get many touches.
Kobe Bryant (31 points, 6 assists and 5 rebounds) and Andrew Bynum (36 points, 8 rebounds and 4 blocks) offset a quiet effort by Pau Gasol (12 points and 7 rebounds). Gasol seemed to shy away from Blake Griffin’s strength and aggressiveness, getting tangled up with him on several occasions. In response to Griffin’s foul being upgraded to a Flagrant 1, Gasol replied: “Can they take the dunk back too?”
Ramon Sessions continued his strong play with 16 points, 8 assists and 6 rebounds. Kobe (13-19) and Bynum (13-20) were highly efficient, in the face of the 22nd ranked defense in the league. LA’s bench continued it’s poor offensive play as they played only three players (Barnes, McRoberts and Blake) who were a combined 3-13.
Chris Paul had a huge night (22 points and 16 assists) and Caron Butler added 28 points with four three-pointers. Blake Griffin struggled with only 15 points on 7-16 shooting. Randy Foye (5-13) and Nick Young (6-15) shot particularly poorly (1-12) from 3-point territory.
Oh, yeah, Blake Griffin had two video-game dunks over Pau Gasol which both could have been offensive fouls. And Kobe Bryant made some impossible shots to finish off the Clippers. I wouldn’t be surprised if the NBA does their best to engineer a playoff matchup between these two teams, because the ratings would be through the roof.