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Five things to take away from Lakers' 99-92 loss to the Clippers

January 16, 2011 |  9:08 pm

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1. The four ejections in the Lakers' 99-92 loss to the Clippers wasn't warranted. I already noted the details surrounding the ejections involving Ron Artest, Lamar Odom, Baron Davis and Blake Griffin. Here's the Cliffs Notes version: Odom took offense to Griffin remaining competitive and chippy with the result all but official. Davis tried to intervene, but the situation only escalated. Then Artest pulled Odom from the scrum itself.

No one should've gotten ejected, but there's a mixed bag on who's to blame. I can understand Odom's frustration level, but his argument that Griffin's chippiness when the game was pretty much over was inappropriate is misguided. The Lakers lost to the Clippers because they collectively lost that attitude. Griffin's not showboating so much as he's trying to set the tone on how to properly compete and frankly after getting pushed around for three quarters.

"It's just the right thing to do," Bryant told reporters in defense of Griffin. "You have to play all the way through. You play until the final buzzer sounds. That's the way I grew up playing. Blake just ran through us. We didn't have anybody that was going to put up a stand."

That being said, Odom has every right to stand up for himself, although his jersey tug was a little too much. Both made it clear this spat wasn't leading to anything verbal, considering Odom kept a comfortable distance while jabbing and Griffin simply raised his hands up.

That's why it was completely unnecessary for Davis to run cross-court and intervene. This might go a long way in the Clippers' locker room and Griffin may feel appreciated for Davis sticking up for him. But it looked from a neutral perspective that Davis wanted to be the hero over something that really wasn't a big deal. It became more serious once he stepped in because it involved Davis pushing Odom, who in turn put his hand on Davis' arm.

Because of the heightened tension, there was nothing wrong with Artest getting involved. He had zero contact with any of the Clippers and he only pulled Odom away from the scrum so things wouldn't get worse. Unfortunately for Artest, his reputation as a dirty player hurt his cause in this case.

All in all, it was an ugly end to an otherwise disappointing Lakers' finish.

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2. The Lakers folded in the fourth quarter.Off an inbounds pass, Clippers guard Eric Gordon hit a three-pointer just as the third quarter ended. Just like Shannon Brown's 60-foot heave to end the third quarter proved to be the spark that led the Lakers to an 87-86 victory Dec. 8 over the Clippers, so to did Gordon's third quarter carry a momentum swing into the final period.

For all the problems the Lakers demonstrated in their previous matchup against the Clippers, they at least showed how veteran experience prevails in late-game plays. Those included Bryant jumpers, Artest steals and of course, Derek Fisher's game-winner.

In this case, however, the Lakers simply folded. The Lakers shot 37.5% in the final quarter, allowed the Clippers to score 10 points in the paint and had no answer for Griffin and Gordon. Foye and Gordon hit consecutive three-pointers. Foye blocked Fisher's three-pointer. Griffin owned Gasol on a postup and then baited him into trying to draw a charge on consecutive possessions. Davis and Griffin ran a perfect screen-and-roll with Gasol and Fisher not switching properly. And Gordon appeared to seal the deal when his steal on Bryant led to a fast-break dunk that put the Clippers up 92-85 with 2:08 remaining. It all amounted to the Clippers outscoring the Lakers, 31-21, in the fourth quarter

3. The Clippers simply outworked the Lakers

With how much length and talent the Lakers have, Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro argued his team could only remain competitive if scored what he called "easy baskets," ranging anywhere from second=chance points, transition buckets and close-range shots. Well, despite holding Griffin to a three of 12 clip through three quarters, the Clippers found themselves in the game because of scoring those easy baskets. DeAndre Jordan and Ike Diogu combined for 20 first-half rebounds because the Lakers simply failed to box out and thought they could afford to cut corners. Gordon dropped 30 points on 13 of 20 shooting because rarely was he denied baseline penetration, Artest couldn't keep up with his quickness and the Clippers often ran cross matches during runouts to make it hard for the Lakers to properly mark them. And the Clippers took advantage of their 50-45 rebounding advantage and the Lakers' 12 turnovers into 21 fast-break points. In a game that clearly showed a talented and experienced team struggling to keep up with a young, hungry and quick team, the Clippers dominated these variables simply because of desire.

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4.  Bryant played efficiently, while Derek Fisher forced shots

With exception to his one of seven mark from three-point range, Bryant played with remarkable efficiency, scoring 27 points on eight of 17 shooting. It's part of a four-game where Bryant has shot 36 of 67 (53.7%) and shown a perfect balance between controlling the offense and setting up others when appropriate. Usually matched up against Gordon, Bryant showed remarkable patience in finding a sliver of space to throw him off balance and nail an open jumper. But that doesn't mean he avoided playing aggressively. He drove to the rack and went 10 of 13 from the line. And his five assists came on a few effective feeds, including one where Gasol cut across the lane and a lob to Andrew Bynum.

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On the other hand, Fisher's one of eight mark continued a poor stretch where he's gone three of 18 in the past three games. I've staunchly defended Fisher even during bad performances, arguing how it's necessary to weigh his locker room clout and ability to turn it on come playoff time. But his game against the Clippers were too much. Too many of his shots were rushed, contested and otherwise out of the context of the offense, traits that surely don't set a good example for the rest of the team..

5. It's uncertain whether the Lakers are ready for their tougher schedule

The good thing about the Lakers' current loss to the Clippers: They immediately can forget about this loss and focus on Monday's game against Oklahoma City. The bad thing about the Lakers' loss to the Clippers: The Lakers begin the rougher portion of their schedule that features within the next two weeks games against the Thunder, Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets, Utah Jazz and Boston Celtics. The Lakers haven't shown a definitive pattern on whether they truly measure up with the league's elite, with poor efforts against Miami, Utah, Chicago and Denver and impressive finishes against Portland, Chicago and New York. Gasol didn't exactly provide a ringing endorsement on how the Lakers will measure up against tougher competition.

"I'm not sure," Gasol said. We will find out as we go through those games how ready we really are. We thought we were ready for the Miami game and we got our butt kicked. It's a matter of stepping on the court and getting the job done."

--Mark Medina

Twitter.com/latmedina

E-mail the Lakers blog at mgmedin@gmail.com

Photo: Referee James Capers holds back Lakers forwards Ron Artest (15) and Lamar Odom as Clippers guard Randy Foye (4) and forward Ryan Gomes hold back power forward Blake Griffin, left, after a scuffle in the final seconds of the game Sunday afternoon at Staples Center. Odom, Griffin, Artest and Baron Davis were ejected. Credit: Gus Ruelas / Associated Press

Photo: Lakers power forward Pau Gasol tries to stop Clippers power forward Blake Griffin from working his way into the lane in the second half Sunday afternoon at Staples Center. Credit: Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times

Photo: Lakers power forward Pau Gasol tries to stop Clippers power forward Blake Griffin from working his way into the lane in the second half Sunday afternoon at Staples Center. Credit: Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times

Photo: Lakers guard Kobe Bryant drives for a layup against the Clippers in the first half Sunday afternoon at Staples Center. Credit: Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times


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