The Los Angeles Clippers saw a four-touchdown lead almost vanish against a Los Angeles Lakers lineup that was ready to snatch a Christmas victory from the jaws of defeat.
Chris Paul wasn't having that, scoring a game-high 23 points to go with six assists as the Clippers beat the Lakers for an eighth straight time, 94-84, in the Staples Center on Friday night.
The Lakers dropped to 5-25 on the year, while the Clippers improved to 17-13 and snapped a three-game losing streak.
If a time ever comes when a historian is asked to sum up the 2015-16 Lakers in one way, he or she should use this.
There may not be a greater gift ever given in an NBA game, on Christmas Day, than that of Larry Nance Jr.'s 10-foot tip-back into his own basket. Here's the amazing part about this play: There were four Lakers making a diamond around DeAndre Jordan to prevent an offensive rebound. Nance didn't really need to do that, and this is a guy who was one of the best rebounders in the Mountain West Conference for four years.
That shot, which was credited to Jordan, gave the Clippers an 8-4 lead, and that was the closest the Lakers would get.
Ben Golliver of Sports Illustrated couldn't help but be impressed by Nance's hockey skills:
ESPN.com's Amin Elhassan also believes we'll see Nance on Inside the NBA next week:
The Clippers' defense and ability to get into the paint overpowered anything the Lakers wanted to accomplish. Lob City didn't need to use its athleticism and dunks to rattle the young Lakers, but rather just played the role of Santa handing out lumps of coal to the bad kids.
The Clippers took a 60-44 lead into halftime behind 17 first-half points from Paul and 10 points from Jamal Crawford off the bench. LAC needed every one of those 27 points, seeing how much the team struggled outside of those two. Take out Paul and Crawford's combined 11-of-17, and the rest of the Clippers shot 43 percent from the floor.
In fact, ESPN Stats & Info showed just how vital Paul was to this matchup:
Playing in the final Christmas Day game of his career, Kobe Bryant did not see the floor all of the fourth quarter, finishing with 12 points. D'Angelo Russell was not that far behind, scoring a team-high 16 points, but the talent level between the Lakers and Clippers was on display for three quarters.
The Clippers took an 85-57 lead into the fourth quarter. By then, Christmas dessert had been consumed and people were beginning to settle down for a Christmas slumber. Dan Woike of the Orange County Register felt the game reached that point:
That apple pie settled once the fourth quarter started. The 28-point lead the Clippers held vanished as quickly as the Ghost of Christmas Past. The Lakers chopped that once-insurmountable lead to as little as seven with just over four minutes remaining, but a clutch Wes Johnson three-pointer from the left corner increased the Clippers' lead to 10.
The former Laker shushed the crowd, and the rest was history, per Silver Screen & Roll:
But the energy the Lakers' second unit provided ran out of gas. It turned out to be a valiant effort for the young team, but it just wasn't enough.
Struggles continue for the Lakers, who have now lost 10 of their last 12. Meanwhile, the Clippers snapped their three-game losing streak, which featured losses to San Antonio, Houston and Oklahoma City. It will take more than one win against a lowly Lakers team to claim the Clippers are back to form, especially with how their bench played in the fourth quarter, being outscored 27-9.
Instead of saying "Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night" after this one, everyone just said good night after three quarters. Thankfully, nothing too drastic happened in the final period.
The farewell tour for Kobe Bryant continued Friday night.
With everything ranging from Clippers head coach Doc Rivers saying Kobe should be in the All-Star Game to playing in his 16th and final Christmas game, it's been a never-ending crusade to the finish line for Kobe.
Despite the fact that his Lakers are 10 games under .500, one look at Kobe on the bench shows he looks more at peace than ever before. He has to be, with how underwhelming this Lakers team has been and especially with how young his teammates are, as NBA on ESPN on Twitter noted:
Now, in his final season, he may be on a bad Lakers team, but Bryant is dominating the All-Star voting. He'll surely play in his final All-Star Game this February, and even Bryant is shocked to lead by that much, per Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News:
Bryant didn't play the entire fourth quarter. He was on the bench, watching the second unit of Russell, Nick Young, Marcelo Huertas, Brandon Bass and Julius Randle lead the improbable comeback. Normally, being on the bench during this situation would make Bryant erupt in anger, but he understood how vital the young guys were during this stretch, per Medina:
Losing is something Bryant's needed to get used to the last couple of years, but he's now 52 games away from reaching the ultimate end and calling it a career.
And despite the losing, he probably feels content with it.