LOS ANGELES -- No less than Phil Jackson endorsed the Clippers as a potential playoff team. And that was before they went out and beat his defending NBA champion Lakers.
Baron Davis scored 25 points and the resurgent Clippers rallied for a 102-91 victory Wednesday night, snapping a nine-game losing streak in the so-called battle of Los Angeles.
"I think that our best is yet to come," he said. "We need to take a victory like this and build on it."
"They're always excited for this game. We know that," former Clipper Lamar Odom said. "They won, it happens."
The Clippers have won five straight at home for the first time since a six-game winning streak from Nov. 2-18, 2006.
"I love it when they say, 'Don't worry, they're playing the Clippers tonight,'" Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy said about Lakers' boosters. "That's the best thing we can tell our guys, that no one respects you. You got to go out there and get it."
"They played better than we did. We weren't able to keep them out of transition," Bryant said. "We lost because of our transition defense. We just gave up way too many easy points."
The Lakers defeated the Clippers 99-92 on opening night, but the Clippers have improved considerably since then despite still not having injured No. 1 draft pick Blake Griffin.
"All these Laker people on the radio and all these Laker hangers-on, they're touting all those streaks, that we lost the last nine straight," said Dunleavy, who once coached the Lakers. "But we've had guys in the medical ward. In a fair fight, we're a good team."
Before the game, Jackson said as much, acknowledging the Clippers could be in the playoffs. They gave him plenty of proof, outshooting and outrebounding his team while dominating the paint 54-34.
"They were down our throats all night. We didn't get back on defense," Jackson said. "We forced a bunch of off-balance stuff down the stretch. I didn't like the way we moved the ball or ourselves. There was too much individual play."
The Clippers twice led by 15 points in the third, maintaining a perilous lead after Bryant's 13-point barrage highlighted a 23-11 scoring spurt that drew the Lakers within two.
"That's what we need, tough games," Davis said. "We need the challenge. I didn't think we had one quarter where we lacked the intensity that we needed to win."
The Lakers scored six straight to open the fourth and tie the game at 79 on Ron Artest's stepback jumper. The teams traded leads for the next few possessions until the Clippers ran off nine straight for a 92-83 lead. Gordon had four in a row and Butler capped the spurt with a 3-pointer.
It was part of a 19-8 game-ending run for the Clippers, who had their long-suffering fans on their feet and cheering wildly in the closing minutes.
"We played like boneheads," said Bynum, who was coming off strong outings against Dallas and Houston. "I was out there missing buckets, it was a tough shooting night for everyone, but we can't let that stop us from winning."
The Clippers used a 14-3 run, including nine straight, to end the first half ahead 52-43. Six different players contributed, with Davis scoring four in a row.
The Lakers shot 34 percent in the half, got outrebounded and had nine fewer assists than the Clippers' 17.
The Clippers extended their lead to 64-49 before Bryant put on a show in his purple road jersey. He displayed all of his MVP moves, opening with an alley-oop dunk, hitting a 3-pointer that bounced once on the rim and went in, making a fadeaway jumper and a fastbreak driving dunk that got the Lakers to 73-63. Bynum's basket finally got them into single digits even though they didn't tie the game until the fourth.
F Pau Gasol missed another game with a strained left hamstring, but Jackson said he went through his first pain-free rehab session Wednesday. ... The Lakers dropped to 16-8 overall without Gasol in the lineup since he joined the team three years ago. ... The Lakers fell to 6-3 in the second game of back-to-backs. ... The Clippers recorded their second sellout with 19,388. ... They haven't won the season series since 1992-93.
- Phil Robinson
- Eddie F. Rush
- Michael Smith