Updated: November 15, 2012, 3:57 AM ET

1. Actual Basketball Is The Best Story In L.A.

By J.A. Adande
ESPN.com

LOS ANGELES -- We interrupt this episode of Real HouseLakers of L.A. for this breaking story: there's honest-to-goodness basketball (emphasis on the goodness) going on in this city, as long as you pick the right night to watch.

Wednesday was a good one. Most games involving the Los Angeles Clippers are, but this one in particular, a showcase of athleticism and skill that just happened to include the NBA champions.

Yes, somehow the Miami Heat slipped into town practically unnoticed, while the local populace was consumed with the Lakers' coaching drama. It overshadowed the buildup to this game, even in the NBA Countdown show on ESPN, where Magic Johnson said he didn't believe in Jim Buss, the Lakers' head honcho.

Blake Griffin
Stephen Dunn/Getty ImagesBlake Griffin: 20 points, 14 rebounds, 6 assists.

To be fair, it's not just Los Angeles where the noise surrounding the Heat has subsided. With a string of clutch playoff performances culminating in a championship ring, there's not much criticism directed at LeBron James and the Heat to be heard anywhere days. At a shootaround that was sparsely attended by the media Wednesday morning, LeBron called the season "quiet."

Then the game happened, providing so many talking points. LeBron started it with a rim-rocking dunk to initiate a 30-point night, Eric Bledsoe drew oohs and ahhs for elevating to cleanly swat away a Dwyane Wade slam attempt and Chris Paul drained a couple of long three-pointers that had the sellout crowd at Staples Center chanting "C-P-3."

It was a game that gave you a little bit of everything, particularly the first half that featured 106 points and 14 lead changes. (Enough action to make you forget the 24 turnovers). The Heat demonstrated the type of ball movement and offensive pace that represented a dream scenario for the Lakers under new coach Mike D'Antoni. When it was over and the Clippers prevailed, 107-100, there the talk was just beginning.

How good are the Clippers? When will the Heat assert themselves? How badly have Wade's assortment of injuries thrown him off his game?

We'll tackle the first question right away, just because the Clippers have earned the right to lead the discussion for a while. In fact, they should be atop some people's power rankings. They just beat the Heat, and those solitary 1's you see in the loss column for the Spurs and Grizzlies? Yeah, those both came courtesy of the Clippers.

Now, beating Miami's Big 3 in L.A. isn't necessarily a sign of progress for the Clippers; they've done it on all three visits since LeBron, Wade and Chris Bosh formed their triumvirate in Miami. It's the way the Clippers did it that should serve notice around the league. The method wasn't new to those who have been watching them, but a nationwide TV audience got to see how devastating the Clippers' bench can be.

A flurry of 13 consecutive points by Paul -- including a 3-pointer he hit from the "s" on the "Clippers" scrawled across half court -- had the Clippers ahead by 11 points after three quarters. Then Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro sent in five reserves to start the fourth. Miami had LeBron and Wade on the court, and Bosh checked in after two minutes. It didn't matter. The Clippers' backups stretched the lead to 20 points with the starters only getting out of their seats to celebrate baskets by their teammates.

"I just have a lot of confidence in our guys," Del Negro said. "They've been consistent for us pretty much all year. Then we made a little bit of a run there. That was a big key to the game."

Their consistency has been a key to the season. This game played out similarly to the Clippers' win over the Hawks on Sunday, when the backups turned a close game into an easy Clippers victory. How typical was this game for the Clippers? The bench players averaged 40.9 points per game in their first seven games; they scored 41 Wednesday night.

"Our bench is not really a bench," Paul said. "Just about every night we go into a game, we're going to have an advantage with our bench."

It's remarkable because these guys are just learning to play together. Bledsoe is the only backup who was with the Clippers last season.

"Every game is a lot easier," Crawford said the other day. "I know my role. My role is to score and make plays. Bled's going to run the show and make exciting plays. Ryan [Hollins] and Ronny [Turiaf are] going to set picks and do the dirty work. Matt's guarding everybody from 1 to 4. So we all understand that and feel comfortable with each other."

Crawford's 22 points Wednesday night made him the Clippers' leading scorer for the fifth time in eight games. It also gave him 16 more points than Wade, who was a late addition to the starting lineup after getting the results from a pregame X-ray on his bruised left foot. He has been dealing with an assortment of injuries that have minimized his contributions (only one double-digit scoring game in his past three) and curtailed the Heat's resemblance to their championship selves.

They're fine at home, where they are 4-0 and averaging 116.5 points per game. But they're 2-3 and scoring 94.5 points on the road. Erik Spoelstra fretted over his team's lack of "the mental resolve that we're known so well for." They're not recovering from their opponents' best shots.

The Clippers are about to get a tougher test than they faced in their first eight games, when they only had to leave Staples Center once. Next week brings games at San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Brooklyn and Atlanta. Real championship contenders win big games on the road.

But aspirants start by beating top competition at home. This was a high-level game … and the Lakers were nowhere near it.


Dimes past: Oct. 30 | 31 | Nov. 1 | 2-3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9-10 | 11 | 12 | 13

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