After defeating the Lakers Sunday, 109-95, you would have never guessed that the Clippers had just clinched the first Pacific Division title in their history. In fact, it looked as though the Clippers had won just another normal game. The division title seemed to be something very insignificant.
"It just feels like something we were supposed to do," Chris Paul told ESPN. "It means we're headed in the right direction. We're not satisfied. We understand this is something small compared to the big picture."
Indeed they seem to be headed in the right direction, and Paul led them every step of the way. Paul had 24 points, 12 assists, five rebounds and three steals and led his team once again down the stretch. Whether it was being guarded by Steve Blake or Jodie Meeks, Paul, known as CP3, didn't slow down at all.
Blake Griffin nearly mirrored Paul with his 24 points, 12 rebounds and five assists. Griffin used his size and strength to his advantage against a more timid Pau Gasol, and the Lakers really had no answer for him.
Griffin combined with Paul showed why they are one of the most terrorizing duos in the NBA today. They seemed to be constantly in-sync and rarely made mistakes.
"I thought Blake and Chris were in tune with everything," Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro told nba.com, "as far as locking in on timeouts and demanding things from their teammates. You're a different team when your top players do that."
Jamal Crawford (20 points) and Caron Butler (14 points) helped in the scoring department and spread the floor for Paul, allowing him to direct the offense.
Despite the Lakers having greater size in the post, with Dwight Howard and Gasol, the Clippers out-rebounded the Lakers 50-36. They did a great job on the offensive glass with 16 offensive rebounds, which led to 24 second-chance points. DeAndre Jordan scooped 13 rebounds and stayed energetic the entire game, making it tough for Howard (who had just four rebounds) to make an impact on the glass.
Kobe Bryant was in passing mode very early in the game and had nine assists at halftime. In the second half, he came out in scoring mode, ending the game with 25 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds, playing all but the last 40 seconds of the game. Despite a tremendous effort, Bryant's great game wasn't enough to top a Clippers team that was hitting on all cylinders.
"They made some pretty tough shots, and they had players come in and make some big baskets under duress," Bryant said. "They kind of kept us at bay and they would get some turnovers and get out in transition."
Bryant hit it right on the head when he mentioned transition, and transition is where the Lakers struggled the most defensively. The Clippers scored 18 fast-break points to the Lakers' nine, and despite constant efforts by the Lakers to get back quickly, the youth and energy of the Clippers was never matched.
With the loss to the Clippers, and the Utah Jazz beating Golden State, the Lakers now fall a half-game behind Utah for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
The Lakers suit up again Tuesday night against the Hornets.
For additional NBA and Lakers updates, you can follow Mitch Kunzler on Twitter at: @MitchKunzler
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