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NBA Is Getting Ugly in Los Angeles

Photo by Paul!!! via Flickr
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Watching the Lakers and the Clippers play on Sunday confirmed everything TNT’s Charles Barkley bemoaned last month. On February 1, Barkley publicly apologized to NBA fans for the quality of the games. I brushed it aside noting how with Chris Paul and Chauncey Billups, the Clippers added instant credibility with the quality of their play bringing some liveliness to Los Angeles.

I guess I spoke too soon. A few days later on Feb. 6, Billups tore his left Achilles, the Clippers instantly became a .500 team going 11-11 since that fateful evening and all the excitement surrounding the team sucked out of a vacuum. With the Lakers still trying to figure out an identity, the city of Los Angeles has now joined the rest of the NBA in a state of somnambulant lethargy.

The STAPLES Center doubleheader started Sunday afternoon that saw the Clippers clash with the 15-29 DEE-troit Pistons. It’s apparent that the team that went to six straight Eastern Conference Finals have long passed missing the playoffs in the last two seasons. But the Clippers really had their work cut out for them needing overtime to get the 87-83 win over the Pistons.

It seemed to be an easy game for the Clippers who shot 69% in the first quarter while holding Detroit to 35%. But then Detroit’s shots started to fall while the Clippers couldn’t buy a bucket. Greg Monroe had a double-double for the Pistons with 23 points and 15 rebounds. Tayshaun Prince had 20 points while forward Jonas Jerebko had 14 points off the bench to go along with eight assists.

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For a good while it seemed like Nick Young’s hometown debut as a Clipper would be a bust as he contributed with nine points off the bench in 29 minutes played. With the Clippers down 69-60 with seven minutes left in regulation, Chris Paul time was activated. His four points and three assists all but carried the squad with perhaps nothing more dramatic than Blake Griffin’s put-back tap-in after Paul’s missed jumper that tied the game 74-74 with 19 seconds left in regulation.

Paul continued to carry the Clippers in overtime with nine points and an assist, and it becomes clear what is wrong with the Clippers. They are heavily dependent on Paul to bail them out of their shoddy play. So Griffin had 17 points and 11 rebounds. So Randy Foye had 14 points. But without Paul’s 19 points and 15 rebounds, the Clippers would be where they were last season.

True, Paul is a superstar and gets paid for what he does in the fourth quarter. But having to bail out a team game in and game out can become quite wearisome. And it becomes clear that with Billups injured there is a leadership vacuum on the floor. Griffin can make those superlative plays, but he sometimes gets mired in insipid fouls. DeAndre Jordan’s game is still inconsistent. Caron Butler has gone cold, and the bench hasn’t chipped too much into the games.

Perhaps this was karma for messing around with Clipper Darrell. But now that the two sides have sorted things out, perhaps the team can get their act sorted out on the floor. They don’t have much more time with the playoffs due to start in just over a month.

Which brings us to the Lakers. As dire a picture I painted above, at least the Clippers won their game. The Lakers straight up tanked against a depleted Utah Jazz squad 103-99 in the STAPLES Center nightcap.

No Al Jefferson. No Earl Watson. Rookie Alex Burks scored a career-high 17 points while Enes Kanter also had a career-high 17 points to go with eight boards.

Looking at the Lakers’ stats makes things curiouser and curiouser. Andrew Bynum had 33 points and 11 rebounds. Pau Gasol had 18 points and 10 rebounds. New kid on the block Ramon Sessions even added 10 points and six rebounds despite making only one shot in seven attempts.

Kobe Bryant: 15 points on 3-of-20 shooting. 15 points on 15% shooting.

It doesn’t take a genius to see where the Lakers’ strength lies: Bynum and Gasol. Why the Lakers continue to go for stretches ignoring them is beyond logic really, especially when Kobe makes only three buckets.

Thankfully the Lakers did address the point guard spot at the trade deadline getting Sessions. Although the Lakers lost Derek Fisher, Luke Walton and Jason Kapono in the process, Sessions does improve the backcourt. The problem is that for a team that only cares about championships, the Lakers still aren’t good enough. The bench is still awful, they’re still lacking in the backcourt.

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Things are ugly for both the Clippers and Lakers. It could be worse: it could be the Southern Californian college basketball season. Nevertheless with the promises for both teams keep withering away, the games are getting harder to watch. But at least I don’t have to worry too much. I still have hockey, and baseball season is right around the corner.

Anaheim Ducks defeat San Jose Sharks 5-3. The Ducks help the Kings twofold: it allowed the Kings to jump the Sharks for ninth place in the West thanks to tiebreakers, and it tired out the Sharks a little bit prior to their showdown at STAPLES Center Tuesday night. With Jonas Hiller taking a day off for the first time since Jan. 10, Jeff Deslauiers made 27 saves for the win.

LA Clippers at Indiana Pacers. 4:00 p.m. FS Prime Ticket, AM 980 KFWB.
LA Lakers at Houston Rockets. 5:00 p.m. KCAL9, AM 710 KSPN.
San Jose Sharks at LA Kings. 7:30 p.m. FSWest, AM 1150 KTLK.

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