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Lots of Ugly with the Lakers and the Clippers
Since my return from vacation, it's been horse racing and hockey. A lot of hockey, really, for which I'm unapologetic. But with the Kings on the road, I finally have time to watch our local basketball teams. And boy were they some ugly games.
Lakers fans have bigger concerns than the team's 96-92 loss to a short-handed Atlanta Hawks team. At the end of the game when Kobe Bryant tried to tie the game with a fadeaway jumper with two seconds left, Bryant landed on Dahntay Jones' foot. Bryant fell to the floor writhing in pain holding on to his left ankle.
Bryant hobbled to the bench and eventually limped his way into the locker room before the game ended. X-rays were negative, but the Lakers listed Bryant with a severely sprained left ankle and out indefinitely.
Yeah, indefinitely. So you know what's going to happen until Friday night. Kobe is going to break open his ancient dusty copy of the Necronomicon, slit the throat of a baby goat and summon the powerful Manon to allow him to play against the Pacers. See? Cthulu rocks!
Now their game against the Hawks was a strange one. For one, they were down by as many as 14 points in the third quarter. But Bryant exploded all over the place in that third quarter to the tune of 20 points to get the Lakers to within two points heading into the fourth.
The Lakers actually took the lead twice in the fourth quarter, a Steve Blake three-pointer giving the Lakers the 80-79 lead and Bryant's three giving them a 83-82 lead seven minutes remaining. But the story was the Lakers inability to make a basket down the stretch. The Lakers went 6-for-25, aka 24% shooting, in that fourth quarter. The Hawks weren't that much better, but they hit enough shots to pull out the win.
Sure Atlanta is a playoff team, but they haven't been good as of late. Coming into the game they lost six of the their seven games this month and were without forward Josh Smith with a sprained left knee and center Zaza Pachulia with a sore Achille's tendon.
So as Lakers fans celebrated on Twitter these last several days of the team's renaissance, is there a little worry now? A little glimmer of optimism for the fans. The Oklahoma City Thunder poured gasoline all over the Utah Jazz and absolutely torched them 110-87. The Jazz scored nine points in the second quarter and at one point trailed by 32 points three times in the third.
That means the Lakers cling on to the eighth seed in the Western Conference by a half-game. So there's that.
As a complete aside from all of this nonsense, Los Angeles gets a bad rap for having bad fans. While I'm not going to argue whether the fans are good or not, Atlanta fans have to be worse. Not only can they not keep a hockey team, fans in Phillips Arena were cheering for Bryant and the Lakers. It really did sound like a home game for the Lakers. So where's the hometown support for the Hawks?
Now the Clippers have a big concern after their 96-85 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. You would think that by now they would have figured out some sort of half-court offense. Even by accident they should be a lot better at it at this point of the season, right?
The Grizzlies have been on a tear winning 13 of their last 14 games, and it showed in this game. It was nothing like the awful goose egg they laid at home against the Clippers in mid-January, a game they lost 99-73. The Grizzlies knocked down 54 percent of their shots forcing the Clippers into a half-court game.
And the Clippers stunk.
Possession after possession it was Chris Paul carrying the ball, dishing it off to some player who would hit a jump shot with plenty of time left on the clock. There was no dribble-drive. There was no off-ball movement. The lack of half-court identity was clear from the opening possession where the ball ended up with Blake Griffin taking a three-point attempt as the shot clock expired.
I know a lot of bandwagon Clipper fans want them to go deep in the playoffs given their history of futility. But really, after the first round they're not going to beat a San Antonio Spurs team or the Oklahoma City Thunder. They'll be out in the second round in consecutive seasons.
The interesting question with the Clippers is where does this put head coach Vinny Del Negro. Do the Clippers re-sign him even though he was unable to install a half-court offense in three seasons?
Just some food for thought. In the meantime, fans of the local teams should expect similar end dates to the season as last year.