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Lakers take back the city, for a night, with opening win over Clippers

Swept by Clippers last season, and expected to struggle this season while their rival flourishes, Lakers pull off a 116-103 stunner.

October 29, 2013|By Mike Bresnahan
  • Xavier Henry slips a pass behind DeAndre Jordan during the Lakers' 116-103 home-opening win over the Clippers on Tuesday.
Xavier Henry slips a pass behind DeAndre Jordan during the Lakers'… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)

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Sorry, Clippers. It's not your city yet.

The Lakers, if you can remember them, stumbled into a new season, dusted off their reputation and promptly clobbered the Clippers by the stunning score of 116-103, spoiling Doc Rivers' debut as Clippers coach.

The surprises never ended while the injured Kobe Bryant watched in a black suit from behind the Lakers' bench.

BOX SCORE: Lakers 116, Clippers 103

The Lakers' reserves, a wretchedly inconsistent group last season, outscored the starters, 76-40, and pushed away the Clippers with a huge fourth-quarter rush Tuesday night.

The Lakers targeted youth and athleticism during the off-season, and there was Jordan Farmar, in his second tour with the Lakers but only 26 years old, scoring 16 points to go with six assists.

Xavier Henry, 22, was also impressive on his third team in four NBA seasons, nailing down a career-high 22 points in a designated Lakers home game at Staples Center.

Pau Gasol was a master in the first half but sat out the fourth quarter, and why would he care? Jordan Hill was a starburst down low in the fourth quarter, finishing with 12 points and eight rebounds.

Lakers executive Jim Buss was in Coach Mike D'Antoni's office after the game. He was smiling.

"A great, great performance by our team," said Gasol, who finished with 15 points and 13 rebounds in 24 minutes. "Not completely surprised. I'm just proud and happy about the win."

The Lakers made 14 of 29 three-point attempts (48.3%), the Clippers only eight of 21 (38.1%).

"Our confidence and our belief in each other, we didn't waver at all," Farmar said. "We competed and it's a good sign to start off with."

The Clippers were leading after three quarters, 79-75, and then they weren't. It wasn't even close in the final 12 minutes, the Lakers taking it by a 41-24 margin.

"We've got a lot of guys that in many ways have been written off, young and old," Steve Nash said beforehand. "A lot of people see me at the end of the road and see a lot of our additions this year as guys that couldn't last in different situations, were let go or bounced around from team to team."

Some strange fourth-quarter Clippers numbers: Blake Griffin was scoreless, so was J.J. Redick, and Chris Paul had no assists.

Griffin finished with 19 points, Redick with 13 and Paul with 15 points and 11 assists. DeAndre Jordan was all over the court, scoring 17 points, taking 11 rebounds, totaling three blocked shots and three steals. It wasn't enough.

The Clippers swept the Lakers last season for the first time since 1974-75, winning four games by an average of 13.3 points. Now it's the Lakers with a double-digit victory of their own.

They couldn't have been held in less esteem coming into Tuesday night's opener. Numerous predictions pegged them to miss the playoffs for the first time since 2005, and it was easy to understand — Bryant's absence, Dwight Howard's move to Houston and, sure, Metta World Peace's new New York address.

"Last year everyone was talking title in the summer," Nash said. "This year, people just ask, 'How do you think you're going to be this year?' It's different. We're kind of starting all over."

The Clippers, meanwhile, were starting a season with a new coach and aspirations of making the NBA Finals — not to mention retaining, or strengthening, their upper hand on their L.A. rivals. This month they even announced that, at Rivers' behest, they would cover up the Lakers' championship banners and retired numbers on the wall at Staples during Clippers home games.

"That [Lakers] team heard for four or five months how good we are," Rivers said. "I told our guys, 'Tonight we're fighting human nature. . . . That team is coming after you with everything they have and I don't know if you can match that.' And at the end of the day, we did not."

Bryant missed his first season opener since 2006 and, you know what, the Lakers didn't even miss him.

One oddsmaker had listed them at 100-1 to win the NBA championship. A more optimistic sports book had them at 40-1.

For one night, though, the Lakers beat the odds. They're atop the Clippers in the standings.

mike.bresnahan@latimes.com

Twitter: @Mike_Bresnahan

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