At what point do you panic? The Los Angeles Lakers lost their third game to open the season. It was their ninth loss in nine games going back to the preseason. Once again, the same ugly flaws raised their ugly heads.
The Los Angeles Clippers, on the other hand, looked artful. They were crisp on offense, pushing the ball, keeping the Lakers on their heels. Their ball movement was outstanding.
The Clippers took an early lead and then expanded it to double digits. That seems to be the trend. In fact, based on review of play-by-play box scores, the Lakers have not led beyond the first quarter in any game this season.
The most telling stat of the night was Chris Paul's 15 assists, which matched the Lakers' team total. It's mind-boggling how an offense that is supposed to emphasize passing can't get more than 15 assists in a night.
The Lakers only took 68 shots on the night. The Lakers need to be worried because this offense, which is supposed to create shots off of ball movement, isn't doing it. They are dead last in the league with just 71 field goal attempts per game.
Chris Paul, PG, LAC, A+
Chris Paul must have been laughing before the game knowing that he was going against Steve Blake and Chris Duhon with Steve Nash injured. The expression "He who laughs last laughs longest" was rendered meaningless in the game, as Paul just did what he wanted to do, when he wanted to do it how he wanted to do it.
When your assist to turnover ratio is in double digits, you're having a pretty good game. Paul had 15 assists, 18 points, three steals and only one turnover.
That deserves an A+. There's no debate about it.
Steve Blake, PG, LAL, C-
Steve Blake, on the other hand, had to go against Chris Paul, and all things considered, he didn't do nearly as bad as you might have expected.
He was able to score a few points, and more importantly, he didn't turn over the ball much. He scored eight points on six attempts, which was actually pretty efficient for what the Lakers were doing as a team.
On the other hand, his assist to turnover ratio was the inverse of Paul's. He had six turnovers to go with only one assist.
That gains him a C-.
Willie Green, SG, LAC, C+
Willie Green played well enough, all things considered. After all, he's just filling in as the starting shooting guard until Chauncey Billups gets better.
He scored enough while he was on the court to not be completely irrelevant and make the Lakers defend five positions, which is all you could ask for from him.
Defensively, he at least got in Kobe Bryant's way a few times.
Kobe Bryant, SG, LAL, A-
Remember how the whole Princeton offense thing was going to keep the Lakers from being so reliant on Bryant? That's working out well.
Kobe Bryant was shooting like the olden days of 2011-12. At least he was more efficient, though. He scored 40 points on only 23 attempts. That's certainly nothing anyone can complain about.
Still, while he's scoring efficiently, his assists are way down, and he had six turnovers. Then again, how much can you fault him for when his teammates are missing everything?
He gets docked a tiny bit for the turnovers, but he had an excellent game.
Caron Butler, SF, LAC, B
Caron Butler had a solid, highly efficient game, scoring 14 points on just seven field goal attempts, including a nice three pointer with the clock winding down before the half.
He added two rebounds, but the main thing he added was scoring. Since that's all they ask for from him, he gets a B.
Metta World Peace, SF, LAL, C-
Metta World Peace is in the lineup for his defense, not his offense, and sometimes he seems to forget that. World Peace lapsed into that role, shooting 3-9 on the night. It's not just the shots he took either. They were bad shots, taken out of rhythm when there was time to look for a better shot.
Clearly, he needs to have someone define what the offense is to him. Just because someone passed him the ball doesn't mean they want him to shoot it.
Defensively, other than the part where he got his ankle broken, he wasn't bad. He played some minutes at power froward, where he was very effective on defense. That's why he gets a C- instead of a D.
Blake Griffin, PF, LAC, B+
Griffin got off to a slow start scoring. He only scored four points in the first 20 minutes.
However, even though he wasn't actively scoring, he was engaged and doing well in the other aspects of the game, particularly on defense. And I'm as surprised to type that as you are to read it. Give credit where it's due, though.
He was strong on Pau Gasol and kept his body on him, keeping him from being productive. He held Gasol to eight points and didn't send him to the line at all.
If Griffin is adding defense to his repertoire, he's going to be looking at being on the All-NBA team. Of course, it's going to take more than one game to turn his reputation around.
Pau Gasol, PF, LAL D+
Gasol struggled on the night, and it had a lot to do with the Griffin defense. It probably wasn't aided all that much by the Princeton offense either.
Gasol only scored eight points on seven attempts. It matched his lowest production of all of last year.
He did have 14 boards and three assists, so that earns him a passing grade, but this is not a very "Pau-erful" performance.
DeAndre Jordan, C, LAC, C+
Jordan had a slightly below average game, but there are some reasons he still gets a slightly above average C+. First, he played outstanding defense on Dwight Howard. Second, his putback energized the Clippers at a point when they seemed to be losing focus.
He scored only four points and grabbed only five boards, but his presence was there, and that was enough to earn him a C+.
Dwight Howard, C, LAL, C-
Howard got himself in early foul trouble and that was a part of the reason the Clippers were able to take command of the game.
There's more to it than that. Howard just has not looked like Howard this season. His energy is just not there. He is slower and less aggressive. That defensive tenacity is not there. It seems so strange to say this about Howard, but he's out of shape.
His numbers weren't bad. He scored 13 points and grabbed eight boards. That's not very Howardesque. The five blocks are, though.
He is going to get back into shape, but when? And will it be too late?
Jamal Crwaford, LAC, A
Jamal Crawford had 21 points, including an ankle-breaking clinic on Metta World Peace that probably made Mrs. Artest cry.
Crawford to the Clippers didn't get a lot of attention during the offseason, but his addition is becoming rapidly evident. A second Sixth Man of the Year Award is not out of the question, especially since James Harden appears to be leaving it up for grabs as he tries for the MVP instead.
Antawn Jamison, LAL D+
The Lakers brought in Antawn Jamison to be their main scorer off the bench. He scored four points. He added six rebounds, but the Lakers desperately need more scoring off the bench.
Last year, they were the worst scoring team in the NBA off the bench. This year they might be even worse. They really need more than four points a game from Jamison. He gets a slight bump for the boards, but it's hard to give him anything better than D+ because of the four points.
Los Angles Clippers Bench, A
The Clippers bench is deep. Really deep. They scored 46 points. In addition to Crawford's 21, Eric Bledsoe had 10, Matt Barnes had eight, Lamar Odom had five and Ryan Hollins had two.
The group also added 15 boards and five assists.
When your bench wins the battle 46-16 you're going to win a lot of games.
Los Angeles Lakers Bench, F
The Lakers bench is awful. They scored 16 points, grabbed only eight boards and had just four assists.
While a lot of the attention for the Lakers losses has been put on the starters, it's worth noting that the starters have more or less held their own.
Granted, they should be doing more than holding their own, but their bench is getting dominated. Someone needs to step up, or the 0-3 start is going to get a lot more serious.