NBA: The Lakers defeat the Clippers in season opener after a stunning fourth-quarter performance.
By Romeo Gonzalez, Sports Editor
This NBA season, we entered an episode of “The Twilight Zone” in which the Clippers aren’t the Clippers and the Lakers aren’t the Lakers.
This is supposed to be the year the Clippers make their championship run, the year everyone forgets about Kobe Bryant, the year the Lakers are surpassed, the year the Clippers finally steal Los Angeles.
Well, that’s what everyone thought before last week when the Clippers’ “championship” team lost its season opener.
Yes. A Lakers team composed of old men and drifters—and no Kobe Bryant—beat one of the NBA’s newest title contenders by 13 points, outscoring the Clippers by 17 points in the fourth quarter.
This was suppose to be the Clippers’ first step toward a championship, but they were stopped by a bench, a bench that scored 72 points—the third most in Laker history—and possibly handing Lob City its biggest upset of the year.
“Everybody said we weren’t going to beat them, and we were like, fine,” Lakers shooting guard Xavier Henry said to the Los Angeles Times. “We thought if they want to beat us, they had to show up and beat us.”
It’s clear that Doc Rivers’ defensive strategy is going to take longer than the summer to come into effect. The Clippers had a horrible defensive performance in the fourth quarter, allowing 65 percent shooting by Lakers in the final period.
This was one of the reasons Rivers was brought to Los Angeles: to teach the Clippers how to close out games.
“It was everybody,” Rivers said to the Times. “I would love to say it was the bigs, but it really wasn’t a lot of times. It was our guards pulled in at the wrong time, going for steals, gambling, breaking coverage.”
This was supposed to be the night Rivers had everyone forget about the purple and gold, but instead it was the best two and a half hours of Mike D’Antoni’s Laker career in which his team played the way it was planned.
Everyone expects the Lakers to not make the playoffs this year, and the Clippers’ season isn’t expected to end until the NBA finals, yet last week it felt as nothing had ever changed and the Clippers were still struggling to compete with the elite.
This was supposed to be the start of a new era in L.A. Instead, the Lakers reminded us that they still know how to run the show.