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A Tale of Three Teams

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Photo by =Manny= via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr
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The three teams who call STAPLES Center home departed on long road trips because of a culturally irrelevant award show happening next Sunday. For all three it will test the mettle as they try and solidify their playoff credentials. And for those three, there were three different results.

But before I get started on it, here’s my obligatory Super Bowl prediction: New York Giants 24, New England Patriots 20.

Things were quite explosive in the Lakers’ 96-87 loss to the Utah Jazz. In the fourth quarter Earl Watson was all over Pau Gasol. Consequently Watson got the ball, dished it out to Derrick Favors who slammed it home for the 74-68 Jazz lead. Lakers’ coach Mike Brown was livid no foul was called on Watson, made contact with the referee and was ejected from the game.

From that point the Jazz went on a 9-0 run to take a 15-point lead with 6:18 left in the game. Kobe Bryant stemmed the tide hitting two three-pointers and nailing three free throws after being fouled by Raja Bell behind the arc. But bench guard Watson was too much, his 11 assists overshadowing the eight points on his scoring line. Down the stretch anytime the Jazz needed a play, Watson had a hand in it.

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The Lakers’ three - Kobe Bryant, Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol - each had 20-point nights with 26 points, 21 points and 24 points respectively with Bynum also getting 12 rebounds and Gasol grabbing 16. Their most productive bench player was Matt Barnes who had five points, six rebounds, two assists and a technical foul.

This was a winnable game for the Lakers having already defeated the Jazz at home and on the road this season. That one moment with Brown getting ejected really knocked the sails out of the Lakers. And those sails weren’t even at full mast having landed in Salt Lake City at 4 a.m. local time.

Now the Clippers got an easy start to their roadie with an exhibition against the Washington Generals Wizards 107-79. There’s not really much to talk about this game especially when Wizards players were running into each other in halfcourt sets. It brought up a question for me: which team is more embarrassing, the Wizards or Charlotte Bobcats? What’s undeniable is the influence Michael Jordan has had on both teams.

I really feel bad for last year’s top draft pick John Wall. He and Nick Young led the Wizards with 14 points each, but having to be on a team with a bunch of scrubs is certainly a waste of his talents. Rashard Lewis contributed with two points in 22 minutes - remember him? And JaVale McGee whose mama said former head coach Flip Saunders didn’t know how use her son, well he contributed with a whopping four points.

There was never any doubt in the outcome of this game. The high-flying Clippers were led by their bigs having a double-double night: Blake Griffin with 21 points, 11 rebounds and DeAndre Jordan with 18 points and 11 rebounds. Mo Williams had 17 points off the bench while Caron Butler had 14 and Chauncey Billups had 12 of his own. Chris Paul while only scoring two points did notch seven assists.

For the Kings, they were hoping for miracles on offense after their 1-0 loss in St. Louis Friday night. Well water didn’t turn into wine, fishes and loaves didn’t mysteriously manifest themselves amongst the masses, no one was regurgitated by a whale, and the Kings still can’t score losing 2-1 against the Carolina Hurricanes.

Things did look hopeful as Anze Kopitar scored a power-play goal in the first period. What’s interesting to note about the Kings’ often-at-times laughable power-play, three of their last four goals have come on the power-play, clock malfunctions aside.

But a long rebound off of a Kings’ shot in the second period led to Jiri Tlusty’s breakaway goal to tie the game, and sloppy defense in front of backup goaltender Jonathan Bernier allowed Jeff Skinner to get the winning goal in the third period.

The Kings still mustered only 25 shots on goal against Hurricanes’ netminder Cam Ward while Jonathan Bernier made 20 saves in his first action since January 9. Mike Richards has now been goal-less and point-less in eight consecutive games - the Kings are 14-2-4 when Richards records a point.

In college basketball action, UCLA beat Washington State for the 19th consecutive year in Pullman 63-60. Despite leading by as many as ten points in the first half, Cal State Fullerton pulled away from my UCSB Gauchos 99-86. LMU mounted a second-half comeback over San Francisco 90-88. Pacific upended UC Irvine 72-64. Long Beach State beat Cal State Northridge 75-67. Washington routed USC 69-41.

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TONIGHT’S ACTION
New York Giants at New England Patriots. 3:30 p.m. NBC, AM 570 KLAC.