The Lakers made the bold decision not to double-team Blake Griffin early, and the young superstar made them pay. Griffin displayed a dizzying combination of dunks and sweeping hooks, and even showed a nice touch off the glass from distance when the Lakers' bigs backed off him. Although Pau Gasol got his on the other end, this loss isn't on Griffin.
Coming off a hamstring injury, Chris Paul put up his worst offensive performance of the season from a scoring standpoint. Although his mere presence created some open looks from the perimeter for his teammates, Paul couldn't quite match Kobe Bryant's offensive output down the stretch the way he did in the win against the Lakers in the first matchup.
Matt Barnes has been Griffin's most vocal critic, but perhaps he has been focusing on the wrong Clipper. By coming out and scoring the Clippers' first 11 points, Caron Butler essentially banished Barnes to the bench for the rest of the game. Butler's defensive performance on Bryant was everything you could ask for -- Bryant just made tough shots.
The Clippers shoot more jumpers from outside of 16 feet than any team in the league. When those shots don't fall, they're going to be in trouble. When Paul, Chauncey Billups, Mo Williams and Randy Foye combine to go 11-for-41 from the field against a team that features two legitimate 7-footers in the paint, the offense is going to sputter.
This looked like the championship version of the Lakers. Bryant wisely deferred to Gasol and Andrew Bynum until the last possible moment, Derek Fisher knocked down a few 3-pointers, and even Metta World Peace got involved in the game. When the Lakers offensive plan calls on more numbers than just "24," they're a tough team to beat.