The Pacific Division leading (25-13) Los Ageles Clippers faced their cross-hall rival the Los Angeles Lakers for their second matchup of the season. The Lakers whose record stands at 14-22 were without Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Xavier Henry, all of whom were out due to injury. Although swingman J.J. Redick returned to the lineup for the Clippers, the club was still without their point guard and team captain Chris Paul in addition to rookie swingman Reggie Bullock.
In what seemed a grudge match filled with memories of opening night and default starting point guard Kendall Marshall’s victory prediction, the Clippers claimed a 10-0 run and 12-0 run in the first quarter alone, ending the period shooting a season best 71 percent from the field with a 43-25 lead.
Redick got the start over guard Jamal Crawford, and looked as if he didn’t miss a beat as Doc Rivers seemed to favor more ball rotation, instead of the streaky shooting isolation offensive threat in Crawford. Redick finished the first quarter with 10 points, giving the Clippers a lift and sparking the same type of offensive competency which ranked them fifth in first quarter points, compared to the 21st ranking the Clippers have acquired without Redick.
Blake Griffin came out with the same energy that netted him 45 points total in his last two contests, scoring 12 points in the first nine minutes, including a thunderous slam-dunk from an alley-oop pass from Darren Collison. He would finish the quarter with 18 points.
With regards to their hot start, in the first half Blake Griffin commented after the game, “That’s something we talked about after the last game. We got up on Boston somewhat big and kind of let them back in the game, so tonight it was 48 minutes, executing our game plan offensively and defensively, and I thought we did a good job.”
The Clippers stretched their lead to 20 in the early minutes of the second quarter, playing swarming defense and cohesive offense. Kendall Marshall kept the Lakers steady hitting an early three 3-pointer and after a few failed dunk attempts from DeAndre Jordan, the Clippers closed the half 70-52 with Griffin leading the charge scoring 20 points, followed by Redick with 17 and Collison with 16 points and four assists. Collison’s play has been saving grace for the Clippers after losing Chris Paul for up to two months, going 34-50 on field goal attempts since January 1, sitting confident on a 68 percent shooting percentage.
Despite giving up 52 points to the Lakers in the first half, the Clippers defensive rating stood at 96.3, primarily due to opening the third quarter with only four turnovers compared to the Lakers 13. Even the chants of “we want Kobe” in the games late minutes wouldn’t distract or deter the Clippers as the Lakers never got any closer. In the third quarter, the Lakers shot 2-20 while being outscored 31-8. The Clippers scored 25 fast break points off 21 turnovers from the Lakers, continuing to show defensive prowess even without Chris Paul, as the Clippers have scored 76 points off turnovers in their last three games – representative of a quarter of their total points. The 21 forced turnovers against the Lakers was a season high for the team. Clippers reserve point guard Darren Collison commented on the defense and turnovers with, “We got after it, especially on the defensive end. That helped us on the break.”
Clippers would reach the 100-point mark and trigger “Lawler’s Law” with two minutes left in the third as Blake Griffin would sit for the entire fourth quarter, ending the night with 33 points and 12 rebounds, Darren Collison followed with 20 points and Redick with 19 points in his first game back after 21 missed games. The Clippers would go on to win 123-87, their largest margin of victory against the Lakers since a 31-point win on February 19th, 1992. Lakers guard Kendall Marshall said “I don’t think there was one positive thing we can take from that game”, as this loss to the Clippers was easily their worst of the season thus far. In typical boxing match style, the Lakers were glad the final buzzer sounded as they were in danger of their largest margin of defeat in club history, which was a 46-point loss to the Portland Trailblazers or January 9, 1995.
Up next, the Clippers face the Dallas Mavericks Wednesday.