Lakers and Clippers Have Different Starts to the Grammy Road Trips
What a difference a week makes. One week ago the Lakers finished up a completely woeful three-game road trip in Memphis losing their fourth straight game 106-93. The cries of "Trade Dwight!" and "Trade Pau!" and "Fire D'Antoni!" and "Kobe is a ballhog!" erupted in a symphony of cacophony throughout the Southland.
But then Kobe decided to pass the ball and D'Antoni decided to slow the game down. Now everyone is happy. The Lakers won three straight with Kobe making 39 assists. It's a revolution! Did the Mayan apolcalypse start a couple months late?
No. The Lakers lost to the Phoenix Suns 92-86. In fact Kobe's streak of double-digit assists ended tonight in Phoenix when he only have nine dimes.
The turning point of the game was when Dwight Howard reaggravated his right shoulder in the fourth quarter which was originally injured on January 4. The Lakers had a five-point lead at that point, and the Suns went 19-8 to close out the game and pull out the win.
Lesson one: Howard is important for this Lakers team. His defensive presence in the paint certainly commands more respect than Pau Gasol.
Lesson two: Slowing down the game means each possession is more precious. Meaning you better score on more than 42% of your shot attempts.
Lesson three: This isn't so much a lesson than a question. What the hell is going on with Michael Beasley's hair? It looked like the tip of a condom.
Meanwhile much less publicized was the Clippers swoon. With Chris Paul out with a knee bruise the Clippers lost four straight last week before righting the ship at home on Sunday against Portland.
In the first game of their Grammy road trip in Minnesota, there was a period of minutes in the second quarter where Matt Barnes was ejected with a flagrant-two foul, Ronny Turiaf and Caron Butler received technical fouls and the chippiness threatened to take over the game.
That seemed to awaken the Clippers especially after Paul and Chauncey Billups had a few words with the team. And it didn't look like they were saying sweet nothings while in the impromtu huddle. What was an 11-point deficit turned into a four-point halftime lead as Butler knocked down a three as the buzzer sounded.
The Clippers took their own 11-point lead in the third quarter, but the Timberwolves like the Clippers managed to cut that to a two-point lead late in the fourth quarter. But the Clippers took over despite Blake Griffin only taking one shot in the fourth quarter and held on to a 96-90 win.
It's clear the Clippers struggle without Chris Paul. An already halting half-court offense looks about as smooth as a road in Kabul. Like the Kings it's not pretty.
ESPN LA's Arash Markazi's tweet said it all:
Kobe has more assists than Nash, Clippers have a better record than Lakers, UCLA beats USC in football, USC beats UCLA in basketball. #2013— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) January 31, 2013