Lakers forward Pau Gasol, left, blocks a shot by Clippers forward Reggie… (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles…)
It was a funny time for a playoff feeling with a handful of days left in January, but the calendar was suddenly flipped several months ahead Wednesday at Staples Center.
The Lakers pushed and pulled, defending the territory they worked so hard to build over the decades, suddenly dragged out of their season-long stupor by the Clippers.
Then they won, 96-91, with unlikely heroes in Metta World Peace, Andrew Goudelock and, yes, the slumping Pau Gasol, who rediscovered his game.
The Lakers did it with attitude, Kobe Bryant and Chris Paul talking angrily to each other after the game, not long after Gasol and Paul exchanged words.
The Lakers missed out on 100 points for a 12th consecutive game, tying their longest drought since early 2004, and they didn't even care.
Gasol had 23 points on nine-for-13 shooting and took 10 rebounds. Goudelock, a second-round draft pick last June, had a career-high 14 points and a surprise after the game.
"I never played point guard in my life … until tonight," he said, a shooting guard in high school and college but apparently not the pros.
World Peace had a bizarre stat line — three points, five rebounds and seven assists — but also his best game of the season.
He played 38 minutes and was the lasting image of the Lakers' highlights, pounding his chest after drilling an open three-pointer with 3:30 to play as the Lakers mounted a fourth-quarter comeback.
World Peace even got into a third-quarter scrum with Blake Griffin, leading to a jump ball.
The Clippers were in control through three quarters, giving the Lakers a short-lived 2-0 lead and nothing more. But the Lakers took the final quarter, 28-20, preventing the Clippers from clinching their first season series against them since 1992-93.
"I thought Metta World Peace had a lot to do with it," Lakers Coach Mike Brown said. "His physical and mental toughness really impacted the game."
The Clippers and Lakers have split two games, their final meeting April 4, a designated Clippers home game.
Griffin had 26 points, nine rebounds and his typical share of stop-and-stare plays, including a double-clutch dunk in the second quarter after blowing past Gasol with a pump fake.
Mo Williams and Caron Butler each had 16 points for the Clippers (9-6).
Paul didn't have much of a scoring impact for the Clippers, finishing with four points in his return after sitting out five games because of a strained left hamstring. He had 12 assists.
Bryant had 24 points, seven rebounds and six assists but also seven turnovers. He made seven of 17 shots for the Lakers (11-8).
Gasol had been in a four-game slump, averaging 13.8 points, shooting 41% and asking for more touches in the post.
Brown took the unusual step of stopping practice Tuesday and hugging him after the beleaguered forward posted up perfectly and scored on a short hook shot.
Gasol was determined from the start Wednesday. He also antagonized Paul at the end, rubbing his hand on the head of the Clippers guard, who reacted by yelling at Gasol.
"That's the way he is. It doesn't surprise me," Gasol said, revealing why he messed with Paul. "Sometimes you just get tired of certain people, certain players talking too much. That's what happened."
Bryant and Paul, longtime friends, also had words.
"Just friendly conversation," Bryant said, smiling.
To be continued in April. The season series, and maybe more, will be at stake.