Lakers armchair analysis: L.A.'s bench stuns Clippers in season opener
Danny Moloshok, AP
With the start to every NBA season comes much hype and anticipation. There were three different matchups on Tuesday, which gave NBA fans a strong dose of the game they have missed for months.
The Miami Heat held their championship ring ceremony as they hosted Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls, and Paul George and the Pacers put on a show against the Orlando Magic. The last game of the night was the eagerly awaited battle for Los Angeles, as the L.A. Clippers played the L.A. Lakers.
This past offseason, the Clippers made several additions to their roster, including head coach Doc Rivers, making them a popular NBA Finals pick. On the flip side, the Lakers weren't as fortunate this offseason.
After much debate, Dwight Howard decided not to re-sign with the Lakers and headed to Houston for a fresh start. The Lakers are also missing their superstar Kobe Bryant, and are dealing with constant injuries from point guard Steve Nash.
The Clippers were heavily favored Tuesday night, as their star-studded roster seemed invincible against a Lakers team that is still trying to find its identity.
The Lakers got the last laugh, however, as they defeated the Clippers 116-103. There were several factors that contributed to the Lakers coming out on top in the battle of Los Angeles.
The Lakers bench scored 76 of the team's 116 points (65.5 percent) on Tuesday, their most since 1988. In the fourth quarter, none of the Lakers' starters played a single minute, and the bench outscored the Clippers 41-24. Five different bench players scored in double digits, and seemed as though they couldn't miss in the fourth quarter. Xavier Henry led the team with 22 points, and Jordan Farmar added 16 points and six assists.
While the Clippers' 34 bench points seems like a solid number, it wasn't enough to match the Lakers' intensity. Even Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and Jamal Crawford couldn't keep up with the high-octane Lakers bench.
The 3-point shot was key for the Lakers, as it kept them hanging around the entire game. Whenever it seemed as though the Clippers would break the game open and go on a run, the Lakers found a way to hit a 3 to keep the game close. They hit 14 from behind the arc, with Jodie Meeks and Henry leading the team with three each.
The Clippers knocked down eight 3-pointers in the game, many of them late in the game as the clock was winding down. If the Clippers had hit more 3-pointers earlier in the game, then they could have stretched the Lakers' defense much easier, allowing Chris Paul to penetrate into the paint and make a play. However, by the time they found their groove from beyond the arc, the Lakers had too large of a lead to overcome.
Rebounding was a crucial focus for the Lakers, as they outrebounded the Clippers 52-40. They especially attacked the glass effectively on the offensive end, scooping up 18 offensive rebounds, which led to 30 second-chance points.
This is extremely troubling for the Clippers, as they have two tremendously athletic post-players in DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin, who normally have a nack for getting rebounds. Both players logged in over 35 minutes on Tuesday, normally matched up with the Lakers bench.
Under normal circumstances, Griffin and Jordan should be able to win the rebounding battle with their opponent's bench. If they continue to struggle in this department, then they could be in big trouble.
Overall, the Lakers seemed to be the team that wanted it the most. Their passion and sharp shooting really fueled them to the win. If players like Henry can continue to produce at the same level they did Tuesday, then the Lakers could end up getting a surprising amount of wins this season.
While the Clippers dropped the season opener, they still seem like a team that will make a deep push in the playoffs. With a talented core, great role players and an elite coach, the Clippers will get right back on track in no time.
The next opponent for both the Lakers and the Clippers is the Golden State Warriors. The Lakers suit up against them Wednesday, and the Clippers face them Thursday.
You can follow Mitch Kunzler on Twitter at @MitchKunzler.
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