In the pre-season everyone was quick to anoint the Clippers as the new big boy on the Staples Center block. But here we are at the half way point of the regular season and the Lakers are in a virtual tie for first place in the Pacific Division. After dropping one to the Suns in Phoenix last night the Clippers stand at 21-13 atop the division.
Jared Dudley led the Suns with 22 points in the low scoring affair as Phoenix rallied late to win 81-78. “It wasn’t pretty, especially early on,” Dudley said. “It’s been two games at home where we haven’t gotten it going early but defense kept us in there.”
The Clippers’ Blake Griffin was held to 6 of 19 from the floor and was held to 17. Channing Frye had a horrible night shooting himself for the Suns, but came up big guarding Griffin.
“He bodied him up and played with him and 6 for 19 is as good as you can hope from him,” Suns coach Alvin Gentry said. “The great thing is we took everything away from him.”
“I felt like we were really dead and didn’t have it,” Griffin said. “There was not a lot of energy. There’s no excuse.”
“We just didn’t shoot it,” said Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro. “Both teams played last night. They struggled shooting. We struggled shooting. It was a low-scoring, ugly game especially in the first half.”
Meanwhile, back at Staples, the Lakers drew to a virtual tie atop the division with a win over Sacramento 115-107. Kobe Bryant led the Lakers with 38 points, his second big game wearing a mask to protect his broken nose sustained in the All Star Game last week in Orlando. Speaking of which, Miami and Dwayne Wade, who gave Kobe the broken nose with a hard foul in a 152-149 defensive struggle, will be in town Sunday to face the Lakers. That should be interesting.
“We played well, (but) we didn’t come in with the right sense of urgency and focus in the fourth quarter, and it almost cost us,” Bryant said.
Andrew Bynum had 19 points and Pau Gasol added 15 for L.A. “We were doing good things offensively,” Gasol said before recalling the Lakers’ similar fourth-quarter woes two nights earlier against Minnesota. “But the last two games, we got such a big lead, we stopped doing the things that got us such a big lead. Against Miami, we can’t afford to let up at any time.”
“It was a great confidence-builder for myself, but ultimately we wanted to win the game,” said Sacramento’s rookie guard Jimmer Fredette, who scored all 12 of his points in the fourth quarter. “We were coming back, and we had a few things that didn’t go our way, and a couple of shots that didn’t go down that could have put us really close.”