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Clipper Message Gets Delivered

The more balanced team wins, 97-91, as the Lakers rely too heavily on Bryant. It's the Clippers' third consecutive victory in the series.

November 19, 2005|Mike Bresnahan | Times Staff Writer

The Lakers downplayed Friday's game, and the Clippers did too, but all that needed to be known about its importance was the presence of one person -- Clipper owner Donald T. Sterling.

A rare spectator at these types of occasions in the past, probably with good reason, Sterling was on hand to watch his assets defeat the Lakers, 97-91, at Staples Center.

Beating the Clippers used to be "old hat" -- Kobe Bryant's words last season -- but beating the Lakers has now become the norm, as the Clippers won a third consecutive game against them for the first time since 1975.

Bryant had a poor shooting night, compounded by little help from his supporting cast, as a city tilted a bit more in the direction of the Clippers (7-2), who sent wave after wave against the Lakers (4-5), with Corey Maggette, Sam Cassell and Cuttino Mobley pushing the ball as often as possible, and Elton Brand taking care of things underneath the basket.

Balanced scoring? Brand had 23 points, Maggette had 21, Mobley had 20, and Cassell had 17.

Unbalanced? Bryant had 36 points for the Lakers on 12-for-35 shooting, Lamar Odom had 18 points and nobody else on the Lakers had more than 12.

"This isn't about a rivalry, this is about the wins, and they keep coming," Brand said. "We felt we were the better team. We had the better record. We just want to keep this going."

Early last season, Bryant sounded almost tired of beating the Clippers, with the Lakers winning the first two games of the season series and improving to 29-5 against them with Bryant on the team.

Then the Lakers lost the last two games of the season series and, with Friday's loss, hit a 30-year low.

"Really? I didn't even know that," Maggette said. "It's such a long time. That's great. It shows what we're doing as a team right now and the commitment the organization is making to help us. It's great for the fans. Man, that's just great."

A loss also has to be added to Phil Jackson's ledger. He was 17-3 against the Clippers in his first go-round with the Lakers, and said the Lakers were "tiptoeing around on broken glass" on Friday.

Too much leaning on Bryant, it appeared.

"We're relying on me way too much," Bryant said. "I'm taking too many shots. We don't know where we are supposed to be yet. It's pretty evident."

Brand, who lost 20 pounds during the off-season and worked diligently on his outside shot, hurt the Lakers again and again, making eight of 18 shots and blocking five shots.

Sam Cassell, on his 36th birthday, looked spry and sound despite flying back from the East Coast earlier in the day after a family emergency.

Maggette, who made it clear last week he really wasn't cut out to be a sixth man, started his first game this season because Quinton Ross sat out with back spasms. He had a miserable night shooting, missing 15 of 21 shots, but he pushed the tempo early.

"I thought they ran the ball pretty well, up and down the court," Jackson said.

The Lakers hadn't been fewer than seven points behind the Clippers in the second half until Odom's nine-foot bank brought them within 87-82 with 2:57 left to play. They never came closer.

Odom, who was ejected in two of the four games against the Clippers last season, managed to stay on the court Friday, but Kwame Brown didn't.

The Lakers received another ineffective game from Brown, who had two points and eight rebounds in 25 minutes before leaving in the third quarter because of a strained right hamstring. He will be re-evaluated today.

The Clippers had nine blocked shots, the Lakers had three.

"Those are big turnarounds for us," Jackson said. "I was critical of that with my players."

There was little criticism of the Clippers.

"They're improving," Bryant said. "They made a lot of big changes, a lot of big acquisitions. We have so many challenges ahead of ourselves in just learning the offense."

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Tale of one city

Comparing the Lakers and Clippers the last 10 seasons:

*--* Team Record Playoffs 2004-2005 Lakers 34-48 None Clippers 37-45 None 2003-2004 Lakers 56-26 NBA Finals Clippers 28-54 None 2002-2003 Lakers 50-32 Conference semifinals Clippers 27-55 None 2001-2002 Lakers 58-24 NBA champions Clippers 39-43 None 2000-2001 Lakers 56-26 NBA champions Clippers 31-51 None 1999-2000 Lakers 67-15 NBA champions Clippers 15-67 None 1998-1999 Lakers 31-19 Conference semifinals Clippers 9-41 None 1997-1998 Lakers 61-21 West finals Clippers 17-65 None 1996-1997 Lakers 56-26 Conference semifinals Clippers 36-46 First round 1995-1996 Lakers 53-29 First round Clippers 29-53 None

*--*

Source: Lakers and Clippers

Los Angeles Times

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