It wasn’t a blowout, but the Lakers led wire-to-wire as they held off the Clippers 112-104 Friday night at Staples Center, to push their post-All-Star game record to 14-1.
Kobe Bryant had a game-high 37 points, coming off his season-high 42 points against Phoenix on Tuesday. He hit 11-21 shots from the field, and went to the line 17 times, connecting on 14 of them. He also had six assists and four rebounds, and scored 12 points in the fourth quarter.
Pau Gasol, who scored 26 points and had eight rebounds, raised $26,000 for Japan relief as he donated $1,000 for every point he scored in the game. Ron Artest had 15 points, five rebounds, three blocks, three steals, and played superb defense all night on the Clippers’ leading-scorer Eric Gordon, holding him to seven points on 3-14 from the field.
The Lakers jumped out fast on the Clips, taking a 30-14 lead late the in the first quarter. The Clippers rallied in the second quarter and closed to 37-35, but never did get any closer in the first half. The champs led at the break 57-48.
In the second half, the Lakers continued to maintain a healthy lead, pulling ahead by 12 on several occasions, only to see their hallway neighbors continue to battle back. After three the Lakers only led 85-80.
The Clippers kept it close in the fourth, closing the gap to two on several possessions. With Lakers leading by four with 40 seconds left, Artest made a great defensive play in the open court, taking the ball away from rookie sensation Blake Griffin who was heading in for a dunk. The game was sealed when Andrew Bynum tipped in a missed Derek Fisher free throw with under 20 seconds left.
Tempers flared again for the two teams, as Fisher and Clipper center got into a yelling match when Fisher threw out his elbow after a hard screen set on him by Kaman, in the final seconds. Kaman appeared to tell Fisher he’d meet him in the parking lot after the game, as he was being ejected with two technical fouls. Fisher was also assessed a technical.
Both teams shot the ball well from the floor. The Lakers hit 50.0% (39-78) and the Clippers also hit half of their shots (42-84). Neither team shot the three ball well, the Lakers went 6-18 (33.3%) and the Clips 5-17 (29.4%). One of the big differences in the game was the Lakers going to the line 39 times, hitting 28, while the Clippers went 15-18 from the charity stripe. The Lakers won the rebound battle, 41-34, and committed two less turnovers at 16-14.
For the Clippers, Mo Williams had a season-high 30 points and six assists, hitting 11-16 from the floor and 4-7 from the three-point line. Griffin had a fairly quiet 22 points and only six rebounds, but did have a few highlight dunks, which has become the norm for him nightly. Randy Foye had 12 off the bench, and Al-Farouq Aminu scored 11 points off the bench as well.
The Lakers moved their record to 52-20 as they won their sixth straight, and now lead the Dallas Mavericks by 1.5 games for second place in the Western Conference standings. They also only trail the San Antonio Spurs by 5.0 games with 10 left to play. They won their eighth straight game at Staples, and took the season series against the Clippers 3-1.
Los Angeles tries to continue their undefeated homestand against the New Orleans Hornets on Sunday. The Hornets lost their leading-scorer David West to a torn ACL this week, so they will rely much more on All-Star point guard Chris Paul to pick up the scoring slack, as they battle for playoff position in the West. The Hornets are currently in seventh place in the conference.