With 7:12 to play in Sunday's loss to Clippers at Staples, the Lakers held a reasonably comfortable seven point lead. At the final buzzer, the Clippers had a seven point win. That's a 14 point swing, really 16 because the Lakers finished the game with a Shannon Brown layup meaningless to all who didn't start him on their fantasy team.
So what went wrong? Particularly considering the Clips had scored all of two points in the quarter to that point . . . and would go on to pile up 29 the rest of the way?
Here's the play-by-play...
7:12- With six seconds left on the shot clock, the Clippers inbound along the baseline. Baron Davis shoots down from the top of the key, guarded by Brown. Kobe Bryant, who was defending the pass on the restart, helps on Baron as well. Davis makes a nice pass to Ryan Gomes -- who inbounded the ball -- in the right corner, forcing Ron Artest (guarding Randy Foye on the wing) to rotate down. Gomes makes a nice pass to Foye, who drifted back to the top of the floor behind the arc. Foye shoots over Kobe, who can't recover in time. As Ralph Lawler would say, "Bingo."
77-73, Lakers.Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images
Eric Gordon scored 30 and was red hot late Sunday when the Clippers beat the Lakers.
7:00- Brown brings the ball up the right wing, leaving it for Lamar Odom. Odom swings to Artest at the top of the key. Brown pops up to the right wing from the lane off a double screen of Odom and Pau Gasol, and Artest hits him in stride. Shannon shoots . . . in and out. No penetration on the play, but Brown did get a clean look.
6:40- Davis up the center of the floor guarded by Brown. Griffin sets a screen, which Davis uses going to his left. Odom and Shannon both go with Davis, who swings the ball back weakside to Foye, set up beyond the arc on the right wing. He shoots over a closing Artest and misses. The long rebound goes to Kobe, who smartly feeds a streaking Brown down the right wing as the Lakers push in transition. Foye foils Brown's dunk attempt, fouling him in the process.
Shannon makes both freebies. 79-73, LAL. Stay tuned.
6:20- Out of a timeout, Vinny Del Negro gets Eric Gordon back in the game. Smart move. Davis walks the ball up the center of the floor, tossing a pass to Griffin near the right elbow. Griffin drifts to his left, and leaves for Gordon coming off a screen. Gordon, near the left elbow, draws Artest and Odom, and passes back to the top of the key to Griffin, who swings left to Davis on the left wing. Baron penetrates to the lane around a Griffin screen, kicking to Foye in the right corner. Foye penetrates baseline, kicks back to Davis center court just above the arc. By now, the shot clock is running down, but the Lakers are scrambling. As Artest tries to close on Davis, he makes a nice touch pass to Gordon on the right wing.
Artest, asked to guard two players at once, tries to close but can't get there in time. Three pointer. Very good patience, very good ball movement from the Clippers. 79-76, Lakers.
5:55- Odom walks the ball up court, leaving for Kobe at the top of the arc. Bryant looks for Brown coming off another baseline screen, but it's not there so he swings to Odom on the left wing. With Griffin in front of him and 10 left on the clock, Odom rises for three. Clang. A totally wasted possession for the Lakers. Only one pass, no penetration with the ball or man. Poor decision by L.O., who still had time to do something more proactive and create a higher percentage look.
5:35- Davis quickly gets the ball up the right wing as the rest of the Clippers work to establish position. The hustle pays off. Griffin sets up on the right block against Odom. Davis quickly finds him. Griffin dribbles, moving left into the paint as the defense collapses before quickly spinning right and converting. Again, good work by the Clippers to beat the Lakers up the floor and quickly take advantage before the Lakers get set in the half court.
Their ability to do it, though, is aided immensely by the horrible possession for the Lakers on the previous trip. A bad shot off a long rebound gives the Clips a chance to work in semi-transition, and they take advantage. 79-78, Lakers.
5:25- Out of a timeout, Fisher gets the ball up the right wing. The Clips meet him high, with Gordon paying very close attention to Bryant, trailing the play. Fish to Kobe, standing on the "i" and "p" on the Clippers mid-court logo. He swings to Artest on the left wing, guarded by Davis. Artest takes a dribble into Baron's body, and BD flops. Now all alone on the perimeter, Artest rises for the three, and hits.
Lakers 82, Clippers 78.
5:10- Davis up the middle of the floor, met by Fisher. He sings to Griffin abovve the right elbow. Griffin gives to Gordon, coming from the left side off a couple solid screens helping him lose Brown. Fisher rotates, but is rubbed out by Griffin. Gordon pulls up near the elbow, forcing Gasol to come out and contest. Gordon pumps, gives to Griffin above the free throw line, who swings left to Davis on the wing. Gasol is forced to come out on BD, who puts the ball on the floor and easily gets around him. As the D converges on Davis in the paint, he kicks to Foye, who finds Gordon wide open near the top of the arc for three. Another great sequence for the Clippers, who are much more active at this point offensively than the Lakers.Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images
The Lakers put a lid on Blake Griffin early, but he was a beast down the stretch.
Patience and ball movement pay off. The Lakers are forced to make too many rotations. 82-81, Lakers.
4:40- Kobe has the ball, again near half court. He swings left to Artest on the wing, who goes to Fisher in the corner. Fish looks for Gasol inside, but can't make the entry. Artest dives through the lane on Davis, but Fisher still holds. At this point, the clock is under 10 seconds, and the Lakers have effectively made one pass. Fish dribbles right, finding some space off a nice screen from Gasol. He kicks to Kobe on the right wing above the arc. Kobe pumps, then puts it on the floor but Gordon does a good job sticking him. With two seconds left to shoot, Kobe is forced to go cross court to Fisher, who rushes a contested three drawing... air.
Shot clock violation. Another empty trip.
4:20- Davis to Griffin above the right elbow. Again, Gordon comes off a weakside screen to take the ball, and probes towards the lane. Cut off by Artest and Gasol, he swings left to Griffin above the left elbow, in space. Griffin faces up on Pau, and penetrates before turning his back to post up. Gasol does a bad job resisting the push, ceding way too much ground off the bat. Griffin draws contact inside the restricted area, making an easy hook shot and getting the foul, to boot.
Gasol compounds the error by not boxing out Ike Diogu on the free throw. Gasol initially pushes him back, but Diogu slides around Gasol's left side as Griffin misses to get the ORB. Diogu clears. Artest knocks the ball away, but it stays with the Clips. The ball comes to Davis on the restart. He comes around a Diogu screen, and feeds Griffin on the left baseline. Gasol cuts him off outside the paint, with Fish shading down as well. Griffin kicks to Davis at the top of the key, who quickly reposts to Griffin, who spins on Gasol and draws the foul on the floor. Again, the Clips restart.
The ball goes to Griffin on the right block, vs. Gasol. Again, Griffin hints at a move to the lane, then spins baseline for a layup as Gasol slides to the ground in a poorly conceived attempt to take a charge. Bad idea. Play defense.
3:30- Kobe takes it up the right wing and tries to use a screen from Bynum. The Clips overplay Bryant in a big way, as Kobe drifts back near halfcourt before firing inside to Artest on the block against Davis. As the D collapses to help, Artest takes a couple dribbles, and is fouled as Foye reaches. Artest makes one of two, and the Lakers are down 85-83.
3:15- Davis up the middle of the floor to Griffin at the top of the arc. This time, the Lakers recognize the attempt to spring Gordon coming over the screens on the left side. Instead, Griffin feeds Davis, who uses a screen to weave his way into the lane. As help comes, Davis kicks to Foye on the right wing, who quickly catches and shoots over Kobe. Decent close, great shot.
2:50- Kobe up the left wing is overplayed off a Bynum screen. He quickly hits the rolling Bynum, who quickly rises and puts the ball in over Griffin. Easily the best trip the Lakers have had in four minutes-plus. Good recognition by Kobe, good aggressive shot from Bynum.
2:40- Davis slows things down, holding the ball high on the floor before hitting Gordon. He faces up on Fisher, and uses a Griffin screen to create some space. Gasol and Fisher stick with Gordon, who is forced to flip the ball do Davis. Baron probes, moves left, and at the end of the shot clock hits a rainbow mid-range jumper over the long arm of Gasol. Nothing wrong with what the Lakers did-- BD just hit a tough shot.
2:13- Again, Kobe tries to use a high screen from Bynum, but loses the ball. Gordon takes it the other way for the dunk. Clippers lead 92-85.
2:00- The Lakers come back up the floor, Fisher to Bynum popping off the block high to the arc. Bynum hands to Kobe, who rises for three and misses. Gasol fouls Griffin going for the offensive board. Griffin makes one of two, putting the Clippers up by eight, 93-85.
1:45- Kobe sees some daylight, and quickly pushes into the lane. As the D converges, he leaves it for Bynum, who makes an aggressive move to try and finish at the bucket. Davis knocks the ball away with a steal/block/possible foul (whatever- give Baron some credit for contesting) and Odom (back in for Gasol) is forced to foul to prevent the break. (The Lakers actually got lucky here, because I don't know if Odom actually touched Griffin. He certainly did little to impede his progress.)
Griffin makes one, and the Clips are up by nine with 1:35 or so to play. Basically, that's the ballgame.
In all, the Lakers did themselves no favors on either side of the ball. Gasol struggled down the stretch to stand up to Griffin's strength, and on the other end the Lakers had far too many empty possessions. Meanwhile, give the Clippers credit for a few big possessions, in which they executed very well, generated open shots, and hit them.
The Lakers absolutely could and probably should have won the game. As Phil Jackson noted after the game, they not only had the seven point lead with seven to play, but also squandered a 12 point lead before the end of the third.