L.A. Lakers vs. L.A. Clippers: Postgame Grades and Analysis

Grant HughesNational NBA Featured ColumnistJanuary 5, 2013

L.A. Lakers vs. L.A. Clippers: Postgame Grades and Analysis

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    The Clippers solidified their claim to Los Angeles by knocking off the Lakers 107-102.

    The game showcased the Clips' superior athleticism, defense and depth as the Lakers struggled to keep pace with their highly-motivated counterparts. 

    Paul led his troops with a fantastic performance, finishing with 30 points, 13 assists and six rebounds.

    Kobe Bryant had 38 of his own, but it wasn't enough to overcome the no-shows of Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace, who combined to shoot just 2-for-12.

    If there was one sequence that embodied the game, it was the lob play that ended the third quarter. Chris Paul split a lazy Laker double-team and floated a pass over a trio of interior defenders to a soaring DeAndre Jordan.

    Smash.

    On the ensuing defensive possession, the ball-hawking Eric Bledsoe and the Clips defense forced a shot-clock violation.

    For the Clippers, the game was an affirmation of their primacy in L.A. and the Western Conference. The Lakers, on the other hand, suffered yet another rough loss in a season where the disappointments continue to pile up.

Point Guards

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    Chris Paul, L.A. Clippers: A+

    Playing with the kind of offensive aggression he usually saves for the postseason, Paul came out hot against the Lakers. His 12 first-half field-goal attempts were a team high.

    Of course, he also made sure to keep his teammates involved, dishing out a handful of highlight-reel alley-oops. L.A. is "Lob City," after all.

    CP3 finished with 30 points, 13 assists and six boards, but it's worth mentioning that one of the game's signature moments was Kobe Bryant's slam on Paul's head and subsequent staredown. Paul returned the favor with a slick step-back over Kobe to close the first half and another with 19.9 seconds left to ice the game.

    Overall, Paul played brilliantly. His total control on the floor continues to be what makes the Clippers an extremely dangerous team.

     

    Steve Nash, L.A. Lakers: B+

    Nash certainly made an effort to get his struggling team going in this one, getting up just four shots in 36 minutes. 

    Whether that was a product of a desire to jump-start L.A.'s sputtering offense or the result of a reluctance to take charge is hard to say.

    Either way, Nash managed to put up some pretty nice numbers despite his low-volume shooting. He finished with 12 points and 10 assists on 3-of-4 shooting.

    He didn't do anything as spectacularly as Paul did, but he was effective nonetheless. Unfortunately, the Lakers needed more than "effective" in this one.

Shooting Guards

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    Willie Green, L.A. Clippers: C+

    Aside from a couple of buckets during a 9-0 third-quarter run, Green didn't do too much against Kobe Bryant. But he also didn't log huge minutes, so his 4-of-6 shooting night was efficient.

    Really, Green starts because Vinny Del Negro is loathe to tinker with his bench unit because it's been so successful. You can bet that Matt Barnes, Jamal Crawford or even Eric Bledsoe could give the Clips more raw production than Green does in the starting unit.

    But Green can't be faulted for his own limited role, so he walks away with a slightly above-average mark.

     

    Kobe Bryant, L.A. Lakers: B+

    Zero rebounds? Come on, Kobe, get after it!

    In all seriousness, Bryant did just about all he could against the Clips in the scoring department. He spent a good amount of time chasing Chris Paul around and still had the legs to pump in 38 efficient points on 15-of-25 shooting.

    But as we're coming to find out, the Lakers really are a much better team when Kobe focuses more on his role as a facilitator. The five steals were nice, but Bryant needed to get his teammates involved a little more.

    Because he didn't put forth a particularly well-rounded effort, we can't give Kobe a solid "A" for his performance in this one.

Small Forwards

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    Caron Butler, L.A. Clippers: D-

    Butler was one of the few Clippers who didn't enjoy a big night against the Lakers. Back with the team after missing L.A.'s last tilt for personal reasons, Butler finished with five points in 29 minutes.

    Fortunately for him, Metta World Peace also laid an egg, so his final line didn't ultimately hurt the Clips.

     

    Metta World Peace, L.A. Lakers: F

    We'll keep this one brief. World Peace had a terrible game. He made just 1-of-6 shots and piled up four more fouls than points.

    Defensively, World Peace didn't have much of an impact on the game, either. In fact, he somehow managed to let Blake Griffin drive to his strong right hand more than once when he found himself guarding the Clippers forward.

    He should know better than that.

    On a night when the Lakers needed production from somebody besides Bryant and Howard, MWP didn't deliver.

Power Forwards

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    Blake Griffin, L.A. Clippers: A-

    If there's ever been a bigger mismatch in the athleticism department at the power forward position than the one we saw between Griffin and Pau Gasol, I'd sure like to see it.

    Griffin got out on the break against Gasol, showed off his usual array of above-the-rim artistry and generally outplayed his counterpart all night. It was a busy night for Griffin, who had the hustle play of the game when he dove headlong into the stands to save a turnover.

    He even hit his third three-pointer of the season in the third quarter.

    Kia's NBA spokesman finished with 24 points on 9-of-16 shooting.

    Say what you want about Griffin's limited offensive game and penchant for flopping. He showed he was the best power forward in L.A. by a huge margin in this one.

     

    Pau Gasol, L.A. Lakers: F

    Why on earth is Gasol shooting threes? What's going on here? 

    Whatever criticisms there are about Mike D'Antoni's offensive scheme, the biggest one has to be his use of Gasol. Against the Clippers, the Spanish big man spent entirely too much time away from the basket.

    Yes, he's a good passer and he did find Howard for a nice lob, but the guy's been a great post scorer for his whole career.

    On the rare occasions when he touched the ball on the block, Gasol looked almost surprised. He was ineffective down there, too. Still, he has to see more touches inside as the Lakers go forward.

    Pau finished with two points and four rebounds on 1-of-6 shooting. For the record, he was also 0-for-2 from long distance.

    Perhaps worst of all, he wasn't even on the floor down the stretch.

Centers

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    DeAndre Jordan, L.A. Clippers: B

    Let's get something straight: Jordan has shown some improvements in his offensive game this year, but he's really still just an athlete at his core.

    Thanks to some nifty passes from CP3, Jordan did work in the air and used his length to pull down a team-high nine boards.

    Overall, Jordan took up space, changed a few shots with his interior presence and generally filled the limited role the Clippers ask him to play.

     

    Dwight Howard, L.A. Lakers: B+

    Numbers haven't been the problem for Howard this year, and they weren't bad against the Clippers.

    For D12, the issue all season long has been how he looks.

    Though he put up 21 points and 15 rebounds, Howard still didn't appear to be the guy he was with the Orlando Magic. He's still a half-step slow in his rotations and doesn't get the lift that he used to.

    And of course, he hurt the Lakers from the line, making just 5-of-11, including a couple of misses when the Clippers employed the Hack-a-Dwight strategy.

    Howard will eventually round into form, but the Lakers are losing games while they wait for him to be the center they need.

Sixth Men

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    Matt Barnes, L.A. Clippers: B

    Barnes finished with eight points, four assists and six boards, but his real impact was most obvious on a specific breakaway in the fourth quarter.

    With the Lakers threatening to make a game of it, Kobe Bryant snatched a steal and was headed the other way.

    But Barnes was in hot pursuit, and anyone who knows anything about Barnes is aware that he's not afraid to lay somebody out on a fast break. Bryant was looking over his shoulder the whole time and slowed down as a result of what he expected to be a huge hack from a sprinting Barnes.

    That allowed Barnes to catch Bryant, wrap him up and prevent the dunk.

    It was just one play, but it perfectly illustrates Barnes' value to his team. Good teams have tough guys, and the Clippers have Barnes.

     

    Jordan Hill, L.A. Lakers: B+

    Hill had been having a nice game off the bench for the Lakers before he suffered an ankle sprain in the third quarter. His 13 points and seven boards led all Laker reserves.

    If Pau Gasol is going to continue putting up performances like the one he had against the Clippers, Hill is going to become even more valuable than he already is.

Benches

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    L.A. Clippers: B+

    The bench has been a huge strength for the Clippers all year, and while it wasn't quite as spectacular as it's been in recent weeks, it got the job done against the Lakers.

    With Jamal Crawford out due to an ailing foot, the Clips still got good defense from Eric Bledsoe and a rounded effort from the increasingly less round Lamar Odom. Mr. Kardashian put up nine points, six boards and two assists on 4-of-6 shooting.

    Ronny Turiaf even chipped in with five points and five boards.

     

    L.A. Lakers: F

    If you remove Jordan Hill from the bench discussion, the Lakers reserves made just 3-of-15 shots from the field and grabbed a total of four rebounds. Is there really anything else we really need to discuss here?

    As has been the case all year, the Lakers subs were just plain dreadful.