Things to take away from Lakers' 108-103 loss to Clippers
1. This was no preseason game. Kobe Bryant may have laughed about any increased excitement about a Lakers-Clippers exhibition game because of Chris Paul's arrival. But the 19,060 at Staples Center in the Lakers' 108-103 loss Wednesday over the Clippers said otherwise. Fans equally cheered and booed for the Lakers and Clippers. Laker and Clipper fans competed with each other over chants. The level escalated after each Blake Griffin dunk or Andrew Bynum putback. Matt Barnes and Josh McRoberts both played chippy with Griffin whenever he entered the lane. This marks the beginning of a more legitimate backyard matchup.
The intensity reached its full tilt after Barnes pushed Griffin to the ground after receiving an entry pass inside midway through the third quarter. Barnes rightfully earned a flagrant 1 foul, but Griffin surely exaggerated in falling down, similar to when he fell down after Barnes' shoulder lean in the final minute. Either way, it nearly sparked a fight and increased the bad blood.
2. The Lakers lack a definitive backup for Kobe Bryant and that likely won't change. Jason Kapono started at shooting guard, but provided little presence, finishing with zero points. But the stats are hardly the issue. He doesn't handle the ball as much as Bryant does, as his game mostly hinges on moving off the ball. Rookie guard Andrew Goudelock proved to be a mixed bag. He tried way too hard in trying to impress the coaches with his shooting stroke at the beginning and playing overly aggressive on defense. But he appeared to settle down, finishing with nine points, including a three of five showing from three-point range.
3. The Lakers' third-quarter effort looked horrible. In what looked eerily similar to Monday's exhibition loss to the Clippers, the Lakers looked flat on both offense and defense in the third quarter. The Clippers outscored them 30-17. The Lakers went on a stretch from the 7:46 mark to 3:10 without a field goal. Meanwhile, the Lakers appeared sloppy by committing nine turnovers
4. Andrew Bynum looked impressive. He elevated his game the most in Bryant's absence because of a torn wrist ligament, posting 26 points on 11 of 25 shooting and 11 rebounds. His points came off numerous putbacks and lobs. But the most impressive involved posting up on DeAndre Jordan and using his footwork to throw him off balance and drive into the lane. Running up and down the floor remains an issue. But his postwork proved to be unmatched. Couple that with Pau Gasol's 13 points on five-of-seven shooting and it proved hard to stop the Lakers in the post.
6. Devin Ebanks capitalizes on opportunity. He opened the game picking up a loose ball and then hitting three consecutive jumpers en route to eight points on four of six shooting. All his work this summer where he took at least 1,000 shots per day might land him a starting spot at small forward.
7. Barnes offered very little besides push on Griffin. As aggressive as he played on Griffin when he caught the ball in the lane, Barnes reacted way too late on closeouts when he guarded Caron Butler. He also made a careless inbounds pass that resulted in Chris Paul throwing a lob to Blake Griffin.
8. Steve Blake's shot improves. He finished with 20 points on six-of-nine shooting. Although he downplays how much time he put in elevating his shooting stroke, it definitely stands out. He appears to put more release on the ball.
9. Derek Fisher was inconsistent with running the offense. Of course, Fisher doesn't have the speed to match up with Chris Paul. But as far as directing the offense, Fisher proved to be a mixed bag. He showed plenty of awareness on how to run it and set up guys fairly decently, finishing with eight dimes. But he often mistimed on passes, resulting in four turnovers.
10. Metta World Peace needs to improve as a bench leader by not tempering his shot selection. A four-for-13 clip says it all. Even worse, World Peace looks incredibly slow on defense.
-- Mark Medina
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Photo: Lakers forward Josh McRoberts, center, is held back by teammate Derek Fisher, right as Devin Ebanks, left, and McRoberts argue with a referee during the Lakers' 108-103 exhibition loss to the Clippers on Wednesday. Kobe Bryant's injury may be the least of the Lakers' problems. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times / December 21, 2011)