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Lakers 1 Clippers 0

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The Lakers fired the first salvo in this season’s Battle for LA, winning a competitive and highly entertaining contest over the Clippers 105-101.

Though play was sloppy at times, both sides exhibited the talent and skill that gives Laker and Clipper fans hope for a deep playoff run next Spring.

With the win in front of its home crowd, the Lakers took over first place in the Pacific Division.

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The Lakers controlled most of the early action, leading by as much as 13 in the third quarter, but the Clippers fought their way back into the game, assisted by a brutal seven minute scoreless stretch by the Lakers at the beginning of the fourth quarter.

However, it was the Lakers that executed best in the final three minutes, with a certain number 24 in gold making the clutch plays needed to capture the victory.

In case you missed the game, here’s a quick recap:

What to like: the Lakers’ and Clippers’ offensive rebounding
The strength of both teams is in the quality of its frontcourt, and it showed in the relentlessness of their glass work. The Lakers pulled in 22 offensive rebounds while the Clippers had 15, both well above their season averages of 10.9 and 11.8, respectively.

What not to like: the Lakers’ and Clippers’ defensive rebounding
Part of the reason that the teams accumulated 37 offensive rebounds was poor boxing out and lazy defense, in particular by the Clippers – at times, they looked like they were allergic to the ball.

What to like: strong contributions from complementary Lakers
The Lakers are at their best when Kobe doesn't have to do it himself. 18 from Lamar, 15 from Smush, and 12 from Luke gave them nice balance. Kwame Brown had by far his strongest outing of the season with 10 points and 14 boards in 31 minutes.

What not to like: nothing's free in Lakerland
The Lakers missed 15 of their 46 free throws (67.4%). Taking out Kobe's freebies, the rest of the team shot only 16 for 28 (57.1%) which won't get it done on most nights.

What to like: Clippers pounding it inside
The Clippers shot 48.2% from the field, primarily due to all of the shots they were able to secure from close range; they scored 54 points in the paint. Normally, they are tough to beat when they are getting such high percentage looks.

What not to like: Clippers treating the ball like disposable wipes
20 turnovers, many unforced on careless passes and silly offensive fouls, negated the advantage that the Clippers had inside.

What to like: a Chris Kaman sighting
Kaman has been under scrutiny for his slow start, especially with his new $52.5 million contract freshly inked. He showed more energy tonight than he has most of the season, finishing with 12 points, 10 rebounds, and 4 blocks in 32 minutes (though he fouled out with five minutes left).

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What not to like: sending out an APB for the player formerly known as Sasha Vujacic
What happened to this guy? He looked solid in preseason, but has seen his shooting stroke disappear along with his minutes to rookie Jordan Farmar. He played 14 minutes, most since the season opener, but bricked four shots (including three wide-open 3s) and did pretty much nothing except fill up space.

What to like: oh yeah, that Kobe guy
He's the best player in the world for a reason, healthy knee or not. 40 points (20 in the first), numerous acrobatic shots, and total control of the game when the Lakers needed him. He looked more confident and comfortable than he has all year. When the game is close and someone needs to step up and make a play, it's nice to have Kobe on your side.

AP photo by Jeff Lewis