Clippers Halt Losing By Holding Off Lakers
The Clippers found the magic pill that cures a basketball existential crisis: play the Lakers. The Clippers beat the Lakers 107-102
It wasn't a full-blown crisis for the Clippers, but left unchecked it could have festered into something worse. The Denver Nuggets and Golden State Warriors managed to force the Clippers into a half-court offense which left them discombobulated. You could see they wanted so much to run and gun and lob and dunk, but all they could do was pass and dink and try to create shots.
The Clippers just managed to run around in circles. It wasn't pretty.
Against the Lakers on Friday night, the Clippers regained what they had lost over the last two games. They realized that their defense was the key to them runnin' and gunnin' and lobbin' and dunkin'. Watch the last three minutes of the third quarter where the Clippers went on a 7-2 run to extend their lead to 16 points after the Lakers cut it down to three early in the quarter.
But that hint of schizophrenia showed up in the fourth quarter. "That was all my fault," Chris Paul told ESPN's Chris Broussard on the national broadcast. "We had some bad possessions down the stretch."
In the final two minutes, the Clippers tried to run the clock out. And that 16-point cushion to start out the quarter shrank down to two points in the final 90 seconds. Paul bailed out the team scoring the final eight Clippers points to hold off the Lakers. But the residue of the two losses was still evident in this one.
Paul led the Clippers with 30 points and 13 assists while Blake Griffin had 24 points and Willie Green had 10 points scoring in double-digits for the fifth time this season.
To be fair to the Clippers, Jamal Crawford sat out of the game with a sore left foot losing an average of 16.5 points right there. But it still baffles me that they would willingly play a half-court offense instead of being aggressive.
For the Lakers, they're not used to being in this position. Now 15-17, this is the first time they've been under .500 since the 2002-03 season when they were 13-19 at this point.
Kobe Bryant described the Lakers thusly: "We're old as shit." They're old and can't run yet have a head coach who wants to run up and down the floor, defense be damned.
(By the way, how hilarious was it that Amar'e Stoudemire told the New York scribes that he's never been taught defense? Ooooh. Burn D'Antoni!)
It's clear to see how their ambivalence on offense affects every other aspect of their game. Each bad possession would be marked by the Clippers causing half of STAPLES Center to jump up in manic ovation. Now that five-game win streak that saw them win in Golden State and beat the New York Knicks on Christmas? That stinker at home against the Philadelphia 76ers and this game now losing three of their last four games have nearly erode the good feelings that came from that.
The Lakers need an identity, and it's a bit alarming that after 22 games with D'Antoni the Lakers look every bit as awkward on the court. There's still time for the Lakers, but if things don't get resolved soon they will be left behind.
But the folks on Twitter weren't concerned with that this morning. This morning in Los Angeles Twitter was on fire like it just slept with an aging two-bit hooker laden with oozing sores sans rubber. It wasn't because of the impending Lakers-Clippers game that threatens to create a wormhole and be the true apocalypse that was suppose to wreak havoc upon the world a couple of weeks ago and make the following scene from The Onion come to fruition:
Nope. It was because of this:
Yes. Kobe Bryant is officially on Twitter, which ESPN LA's Dave McMenamin confirmed with multiple sources. I suppose the "verified profile" badge is not sufficient in this day and age of botched journalism (i.e. Sandy Hook massacre.)
People were losing their shit over this. Who would Kobe follow? What if he followed no one? omg @kobebryant can I get a RT? #aboutdamntime Here's one that I'm sure would cause Twitter to shut down:
@Shaq: hey @kobebryant. tell me how my ass tastes.
I know this is completely antithetical to what I do in writing about sports, but sometimes it's better for athletes to shut up. Case in point is Texas A&M and Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Johnny Manziel. A&M didn't allow freshman players to speak to the media, so for most of the college football season Manziel was a myth.
All we knew about the so-called Johnny Football was his actions on the football field and a police report from over the summer.
I imagined Manziel as surreptiously reading the works of Anton LaVey, perhaps some Deleuze and Guattari with some Charles Bukowski and William Burroughs thrown in for good measure, all the while boffing his roommate that would make every hedonistic homosexual across the country cry with joy and pride.
Instead he was finally allowed to talk. While he came across as nice in all of his interviews leading up to the Heisman, every one of illusions were shattered. In fact we learned that this slag is his girlfriend.
Reality hit, and it was far less interesting than the construct in my perverted mind.
But that doesn't take away from his transcendent performance all season long topped by his performance in the Aggies 41-13 rout over Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl: 22-of-34 for 287 yards, two touchdowns and an interception through the air and 229 yards on the ground on 17 attempts with two additional touchdowns. So he's not nearly the guy that I had imagined. I'm still going to be at the edge of my seat watching A&M's games against LSU and Alabama next season.
One final thought on Twitter that I can't wrap my head around. What is the value of following a celebrity or an athlete? True, you might be missing out on their bon mots which if missed could drive one to suicide. However someone you're following is bound to retweet it to the world if it's especially memorable.
So, I ask, what's the point? Then again we could ask that very question about the entire premise of Twitter, but that would open up an existential bag of worms that I'm not really comfortable with for fear of having to bow at the altar of Soren Kirkegaard.
Besides that's not the existential crisis we should be examining. Will the Clippers be able to fix what ails them tomorrow against the Warriors? Are the Lakers going to get better?
Finally for your gambling purposes, here are my picks for this weekend's NFL playoff games:
Cincinnati Bengals at Houston Texans (-4.5): The Bengals haven't proven they can win a playoff game while the Texans won a playoff game last season with a backup backup rookie quarterback. Texans 21; Bengals 13. 1:30 p.m. NBC.
Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers (-7.5): Lambeau Field is no longer a home field advantage, and the Vikings with Adrian Peterson is better equipped to handle the elements. By the way it's expected to be partly cloudy and 22 degrees at gametime. Vikings 24; Packers 21. 5:00 p.m. NBC.
Indianapolis Colts at Baltimore Ravens (-6.5): While the Colts are the feel-good story in the league this season, they rely too much on rookie quarterback Andrew Luck to bail them out. Against the Ravens who are proven in this round of the playoffs, they don't have a shot. Ravens 31; Colts 10. 10:00 a.m. CBS (Sunday).
Seattle Seahawks at Washington Redskins (+3.0): Seattle's defense is a wonder to behold. With a hobbled Robert Griffin for the Redskins, he will be more of a pocket passer relieving some of the pressure on Seattle's defense. Seahawks 13; Redskins 10. 1:30 p.m. Fox (Sunday).