by Adam Figman | @afigman
Is there any chance Donald Sterling can pay the NBA, like, a million-billion dollars, and the NBA can in turn allow the Clippers to replay the season’s first 25 games? Because all of a sudden, these guys are really ballin’, and it’s unfortunate just how uphill this uphill climb towards respectability is going to be. The Lakers thought they had a good hold of the Clips yesterday, but a late-third/early-fourth quarter run put the underdogs ahead, where they remained until the clock hit double zeros. Vinny Del Negro’s guys held on late, behind clutch hoops from Eric Gordon (30 points, 6 dimes), Baron Davis (14 points) and, of course, Blake Griffin, who went for 18 and 15 and did the majority of his damage in the second half. Kobe Bryant led the Lake Show with 27, though his team’s go-to move against the Clips was the dump-down to Andrew Bynum, who scored 18 (mostly easy) points and snatched 13 rebounds.
So what does this all mean? Tough to tell. The Lakers clearly aren’t in ready-for-postseason mode just yet, but it’s early enough for that not to be a problem at all. The Clippers, meanwhile, looked great, moved the ball well, showcased some exciting young guys, and got right in the faces of the defending champs, literally: Griffin and Lamar Odom verbally tussled in the game’s final 10 seconds, which resulted in the ejections of those two, Baron Davis (who approached Odom while yelling and shoving), and Ron Artest, expelled for some unknown reason. LAC now stands at 14-25, six games out of postseason contention and having won nine of their last 14. If they can pick it up even further, a Playoff push isn’t out of the picture—though it is still pretty unlikely. But, if nothing else, the intensity this squad continues to bring each night—exemplified by the way Griffin refused to back down from Odom and Co., shown in the video below—is all types of refreshing.
Some extra lining to the Spurs sitting at No. 1 in the West? The fact that they’re great at home (15-0 in their last, um, 15). Because if things continue down this path, they’ll be playing a lot of home games this May, and they’ll need a little advantage on groups with younger and fresher legs after playing those 83+ games. The Spurs added another W onto that home winning streak last night, easily defeating the Nuggets behind great showings from Tony Parker (30 points, 7 rebounds) and Manu Ginobili (18 points, 7 assists). Both teams’ starters got some rest late in the contest, and I think it’s safe to say that all this Carmelo trade talk is certainly becoming an on-the-court distraction for the Nugs. Not that Denver’s wrong to engage in a conversation or two, but with today’s news cycle, you need to step into the ring ready to hurry up and deal or avoid the mess altogether, because the consequences of allowing this saga to linger are too costly. Wins against the weak Cavs, LeBron-less Heat and struggling Suns are cool, but performances like this one in San Antonio indicate that the persistent rumors might be doing some damage.
Actual Stats: Tony Parker: 30 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 threes, 2 steals.
Moment of the Night: Let’s be real: Griffin wanted the rebound, and potentially one more bucket, so he could get to 20 points. At least that’d be my guess. Maybe he was going a little too hard with 5 seconds to go and the game entirely wrapped up, and maybe Odom felt he needed to check the rook. Understandable. Regardless, you gotta love Blake’s intensity—how he went hard until 0:00—and his attitude, with in his refusal to back down to the Laker vets. Dude might mess around and make the Clippers relevant, and who could possibly be mad at that?