Referee James Capers holds back Lakers forwards Ron Artest (15) and Lamar… (Gus Ruelas / Associated…)
Who better to recognize a hoop smackdown than the author of the concept?
Kobe Bryant summed up Sunday's Lakers-Clippers game cleanly and neatly, needing only four words.
"Blake just punked us," said Bryant, who scored 27 points.
And no, he wasn't talking about Laker Steve Blake. It was all about rookie Blake Griffin leading the Clippers to a 99-92 victory over the Lakers at Staples Center, a game in which four players, including Griffin, were ejected after a scrum with 5.7 seconds remaining.
So would that be punked or punk'd as the Lakers lost for the first time in eight games?
Well, this was no practical joke played by the Clippers, a team often treated like a joke around these parts for so many years. The Clippers (14-25) have won eight of their last 12 games and put up two statement-making victories in the space of five days.
Beating Miami on Wednesday represented a national statement.
The Lakers? That's a local thing, of course, and represented a breakthrough for the young Clippers, who blew a 12-point lead against the Lakers in early December and lost at the buzzer, via Derek Fisher.
This victory didn't mean that a rivalry was officially hatched. At least not in the eyes of one Laker.
"I don't think there's still much rivalry," Pau Gasol said. "You have to play a team let's say in the conference finals four years in a row or something."
Sunday, the Lakers (30-12) squandered a 12-point third-quarter lead and Fisher managed but two points. For the Clippers, Eric Gordon was game high with 30 points, making four three-pointers; Griffin recorded his 26th consecutive double-double with 18 points and 15 rebounds, DeAndre Jordan had eight points and 15 rebounds and Ike Diogu had 11 rebounds off the bench.
Griffin's double-double streak seemed in serious jeopardy when he had two points in the first half and, at one point, was one for 10 from the field.
That brought forth a rare flash of self-doubt from Griffin, and Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro had to get animated with the youngster during a timeout.
"I was just at a loss for words," Griffin said. "It seemed like everything I shot just found a way not to go in. I felt like I was hurting us a little bit."
He pulled himself together enough to put the hurt on the Lakers, running through Gasol, who had 13 points and eight rebounds, and greatly irritating Lamar Odom late in the game, leading to their ejections. Odom grabbed Griffin's jersey and then Baron Davis and Ron Artest entered the picture.
Davis and Artest were ejected in addition to Odom and Griffin.
"Lamar just had to make a stand," Bryant said, noting that Griffin had run through Gasol.
Said Davis: "He [Griffin] plays with a chip and at the same time a tenacity that a lot of people misread, you know, especially veteran guys. They don't like being shown up."
Griffin seemed surprised by his ejection. The officials declined to comment about the final call when offered the opportunity to speak to a pool reporter. Odom noted the physical play came with five seconds remaining in the game, a factor in his reaction.
"I didn't say anything," Griffin said. "Didn't make a swing at anybody. I didn't push anybody. When Baron came in, I tried to grab Baron. So I don't know."
What did Odom say to him?
"He asked me . . . why I was doing that or something, I'm not sure," Griffin said. "There's never a situation where I'm not going to go to the glass. I would think of all the people, he would know that. . . . It's one of those things."
Jordan, a close buddy of Griffin's, was amused by the scrum. He made a funny gesture toward Davis, the peacemaker, pointing to his head.
"I thought it was cool," he said. "I was telling him to be smart, don't be crazy. The good angel."
Gasol spoke about the way Griffin plays, and that offered something of a window into how veterans might be reacting to the rookie.
"He [Griffin] uses his body," Gasol said. "He still hasn't developed a lot of moves. He tries sometimes to go over your back, or shove you or jump through you. He's trying to play his game. That's about it."
Meanwhile, squandering the 12-point lead did not signify a trend of letting opponents off the hook, the Lakers said.
"There [have been] a lot of tacos," Bryant said. "We've really put the hammer down on teams. Tonight they capitalized on mistakes and Blake just ran through us. We didn't have anybody that was going to put up a stand."