Five things to take from the Lakers' 96-91 victory over the Clippers
1. Metta World Peace helps secure the Lakers' 96-91 victory Wednesday at Staples Center. You may be performing a double-take, but it's true. World Peace played a large part in securing the Lakers' win. He may have scored only three points on one-for-four shooting, but he was involved in nearly every facet of the game.
The fans at Staples Center remained justified when they gasped as World Peace took a wide-open three-pointer late in the game. But his shot gave the Lakers an 87-82 lead with 3:30 remaining, prompting World Peace to pump out his chest. On the next play, he connected with Andrew Bynum on a put-back, prompting Gasol to push World Peace in excitement. World Peace's effective cutting, swing passes, seven assists, five rebounds and two steals helped ensure the Lakers having the proper energy level and ball movement.
For at least one game, World Peace looked like the old Ron Artest.
2. The Lakers and Clippers don't like each other, and that's a good thing. It's clear the animosity just got even more heated. The defining image may be World Peace tussling with Blake Griffin on the floor for a loose ball. After World Peace wrapped his legs around Griffin, both got up and appeared about to trade barbs, but teammates separated them.
There were more chippy plays. Clippers guard Mo Williams threw a flagrant foul on rookie Andrew Goudelock. Clippers forward Reggie Evans continuously played dirty against Pau Gasol and Josh McRoberts, so much that it frustrated McRoberts enough to earn an ejection. Kobe Bryant got so annoyed with a traveling call that he ran across court to protest the ruling. After Derek Fisher made a timely fourth-quarter steal, Clippers guard Chauncey Billups mouthed off. Once the buzzer hit, Bryant exchanged words with Chris Paul. Gasol followed suit by rubbing his hand on his head. He also antagonized Paul at the end, rubbing his hand on the head of the Clippers guard, who reacted by yelling at Gasol.All in all, the Lakers and Clippers combined for six technical fouls.
Hopefully, the basketball gods will provide a crosstown L.A. playoff series. The fans at Staples Center on Wednesday got a sneak peek.
3. Gasol played much more aggressively. So this is what it looks like when Gasol plays more assertively and his teammates actively look for him. The result: Gasol scored 23 points on nine-for-13 shooting. On one play, he received an entry pass in the low post only for Blake Griffin to push him out. But Gasol didn't back down. He threw Griffin off balance on a pump fake, drove into the lane and converted on a hook shot. On another play, World Peace drove the lane and connected with Gasol on a one-hander. And after struggling with his mid-range jumper in the last two games, Gasol nailed those with ease.
This didn't take away from Gasol's facilitating. His dump-off pass to Matt Barnes for a baseline drive remained a thing of beauty. So did Gasol's pass to Bryant that set up a baseline jumper off the backboard.
Unfortunately for the Lakers, this took place mostly in the first half. In the third quarter, Gasol attempted only two shots, became a target of Evans' mauling and had trouble limiting Griffin's highlight reels the way he managed beforehand.
Nonetheless, Gasol and the Lakers provided a good blueprint of how he fits in the offense. He won't always manufacture these numbers, but a persistently aggressive mindset will help set a different tone.
4. Goudelock proved to be a pleasant surprise. It was only a week ago that Brown sounded adamantly against playing the rookie at point guard. But with Darius Morris disappointing, Brown's gamble on Goudelock paid off. He scored 14 points on five-for-eight shooting, which eclipses his season total before this game.
His shooting stroke often came within the context of the offense and it featured a smooth delivery, qualities Goudelock didn't always show initially. It's always easy to overstate the significance of one game, but Goudelock played absolutely out of his mind. It should make Brown consider playing Goudelock more at backup point guard.
5. The Lakers played with more energy. OK, so the Lakers failed to score more than 100 points for the 12th consecutive game. They had trouble limiting Griffin's third-quarter dunks. There's very little they can do to stop Chris Paul on the pick-and-roll.
But the Lakers' increased energy level helped in a number of areas. They achieved offensive balance, with Bryant (24), Gasol, Bynum (19), Derek Fisher (11) and Goudelock cracking double figures. They ensured crisp ball movement. They shot much better from three-point range (eight of 16) than their league-worst 27% mark usually entails. And, for once, it actually looked like they enjoyed playing together.
-- Mark Medina
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Photo: Lakers forward Metta World Peace, right, knocks the ball away from Clippers guardRyan Gomes during the third quarter of Wednesday's game. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times / January 25, 2012