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Lakers, Clippers Xmas an Exercise of Compare-Contrast

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It was a tale of two cities with the Lakers and Clippers on Christmas, an exercise in compare/contrast that high school English teachers love to torture their students with. Both games were quite ugly to be honest.

If Thanksgiving had tryptophan, then Christmas had the Bulls-Lakers matchup. The first half of that game was filled with everything I hate about basketball: plodding offenses, no second-chance opportunities. That’s why when halftime came around, I went into the kitchen to make my jalapeno hushpuppies and buffalo chicken cheese balls for my family dinner.

For the Clippers-Warriors game, the Clippers at one point in the second quarter missed 13 consecutive field goals and three of four free throws in over a four-minute span. Chauncey Billups was lofting threes as if the Clippers were down by 15 points late in the fourth quarter. Nope, they had a 36-28 lead. The worst of it was the Clippers missing the basket off the second chance opportunities right in front of the basket. It really did look like the old look Clippers.

After a strong third quarter from the Clippers, the Warriors made things dicey in the fourth quarter cutting what was a Clippers’ 10-point lead down to one with 8:28 left in the game. That’s when Billups and Chris Paul took the game over.

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Billups got seven quick points while Paul then got eight points with four assists to allow the Clippers to pull out to a 19-point lead they ended the game with. Aided by Caron Butler’s two steals, the Clippers allowed the
Warriors to score all of five points in the final 6:51 - a 23-5 run to close out the game.

As strange as it may seem to say it, the Clippers have the superstar presence to overcome lulls during the game. Even a year ago the Clippers would have struggled to pull come back after their lead shrank to a point. It’s amazing what a Chris Paul and Chauncey Billups can do for a team.

Too bad the same cannot be said for the Lakers.

For most teams, an 11-point lead with 3:44 left in the game would be pretty solid. But with Kobe Bryant’s ligament-deficient shooting wrist and cartilage-less knees and a team full of who-the-hell-is-that-s, they fell underneath the weight of Derrick Rose, Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng. A Rose layup led to a Joakim Noah steal of Kobe driving to the paint with Deng slamming a two in transition. After Pau Gasol missed a jumper and Ronnie Brewer hit one, it was time for the Lakers to collect their thoughts.

Too bad there were no thoughts. Steve Blake did hit a three coming out of the timeout, but that was about it. Gasol missed all of his free throws, Josh McRoberts did the same. Kobe hit a jumper that stemmed the bleeding for a little bit giving the Lakers the 87-81 lead. But after Deng missed a three-pointer and got his rebound, he laid it in, was fouled by Gasol and hit his foul shot - a three-point deficit for the Bulls.

Now the game is winnable for the Bulls, and the Lakers can’t fuck up. Kobe fouls Deng who hits his free throws and it’s a one-point game. Then Kobe throws the ball away giving the Bulls the chance to take their first lead since the end of the third quarter. The reigning MVP Derrick Rose obliges and makes his hook shot to give the Bulls the 88-87 lead.

With 4.8 seconds left, of course the ball was going to Kobe. The Bulls knew it and collapsed down on him to defend him. Surrounded by red jerseys, Kobe heaved a shot that was blocked by Deng. The buzzer sounded.

Just like that the Lakers lost it. Now granted the Miami Heat had a bigger choke job in the fourth quarter in their game against the Dallas Mavericks being outscored 29-8, but at least they had a 35-point cushion to work with.

To review: the Lakers choked in the fourth quarter and lost while the Clippers recovered to finish a strong fourth quarter and won. The end times are indeed soon upon us, but at least things should be interesting down the stretch.