A New Year Filled with Mystery about Clippers, Lakers
With a new year comes the hope of having a clearer perspective in life. Unfortunately the only perspective I have to offer is about sports since that’s what my life revolves around now. Or at least it’s the only perspective I can afford to have, but really no one cares about what I can or can’t afford. Nevertheless the Lakers and Clippers are neither as good nor as bad as previously thought.
The addition of Chris Paul and Chauncey Billups looked awfully seductive a couple of weeks ago. But it seemed they couldn’t overcome the Clippers tradition of suckitude continuing their losing ways in San Antonio and were blown out of STAPLES Center by the Bulls. Surely the new-look Clippers could have won at least one of those game and not looked like the old Clippers. But they didn’t and here they were with a 1-2 record facing the 3-0 Portland Trail Blazers in their first game away from the Rose Garden.
Billups sat out another game with a sore right groin, and the Clippers managed a 93-88 win over the Blazers. But the Clippers have some problems to hash out especially since they should have ran away with the game. The Clippers defense held the Blazers to 35.6% shooting after the first three quarters of the game after allowing 115 and 114 points respectively in the two losses.
However after building up a 17-point lead entering the fourth quarter, the Clippers saw it collapse like a San Pedro road into the ocean. Portland attacked the paint while the Clippers not only made poor decisions on offense, they decided it would be a good time to turn the ball over. With 29.8 seconds left in the game, LaMarcus Aldridge hit a turnaround bank shot to make it a two-point game. Thankfully Chris Paul drove for a layup to close the book on the game.
Granted the win got the Clips over the nine-losses-in-ten-games hump over the Blazers. And the Clips are now 2-2. But gagging a 17-point lead really did make them look like recent years’ Lakers didn’t it?
The Lakers had their own set of problems facing the Nuggets for the second straight day, this time changing settings to the oxygen-deprived metropolis called Denver. It seemed to have changed the fortunes of both teams as the Nuggets rallied for the 99-90 win over the Lakers after losing 92-89 in Los Angeles Saturday afternoon.
On Saturday the Lakers went on a 7-0 run in under two minutes to take a 91-89 lead with 1:52 remaining in the game. A couple of missed free throws by Ty Lawson and, most memorably, a blown layup by Danilo Gallinari allowed the Lakers to hang on for the victory.
Things were different Sunday night. After a fourth quarter where neither team led by more than one possession, the Nuggets scored all 11 points in the final 2:34 to even the home-and-home series. Clearly it was an off night for Kobe Bryant who shot 6-for-28 (21.4%) with 16 points, his worst shooting night since Jan. 18, 2010 when he went 4-for-19 (21.1%) with 11 points at home against the Orlando Magic. Thankfully Pau Gasol had a double-double with 20 points and 11 rebounds, Andrew Bynum had 18 points and 16 rebounds. Steve Blake added 14 points off the bench while Ron Artest had 10.
While watching the final minutes tick away, I was a little confused. Was the Denver defense that good or the Lakers’ offense that bad? And reflexively, was the Lakers’ defense that bad or the Denver offense that good?
It looked like, for a minute or two, the Lakers might have actually found something in Josh McRoberts and Troy Murphy. Maybe unlike all of the doom and gloom around the Lakers that I spat up in the last few weeks, the Lakers might be able to get things together and make the playoffs. But with holding the Utah Jazz to 32.2% shooting and the New York Knicks to 31.3% shooting, maybe those were merely bad teams?
A final thought about Denver. On this day, January 1, 2012, we have definite proof that there is no god: the human race is subjected to yet another week of Denver Broncos football.
Colorado Avalanche at LA Kings. 7:30 p.m. FSWest, AM 1150 KTLK.
Long Beach State 49ers at UC Irvine Anteaters. 7:00 p.m.
Cal State Northridge Matadors at UC Riverside Highlanders. 7:00 p.m.
Pacific Tigers at Cal State Fullerton Titans. 7:05 p.m.