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Monday, April 10, 2006 

LAKERS ARE FAR SUPERIOR TO CLIPPERS

As only this franchise of failure could, the Clippers turned what should have been a weekend of celebration into sheer misery for their fans. After needing another team to lose to clinch their first playoff berth in almost a decade, the Clippers sent their faithful home unhappy not once but twice, giving away a rivalry game they had firmly in hand Friday, then not showing up for another last night. The Lakers claimed city bragging rights for the summer with a complete 100-83 domination of a Clippers squad that looked every bit the part of a Staples Center subtenant.

It seemed as though the Clippers physically shrank following their incredible loss to the Kings. Elton Brand posted another double-double, but had to work much harder for his 24 and 10 -- and shoot from farther out -- than Lamar Odom did for his 23 and 15. After witnessing E.B.'s involvement in at least half a dozen failed fast breaks last night, I split the blame equally between Elton and the teammates who kept putting him in situations where he clearly does not excel.

Chris Kaman fared far worse, picking up a foul in the first minute of play and two more by the midway point of the second quarter. Chris ended with 8 and 11, while his Laker counterpart Kwame Brown posted 9 and 8. Vis-a-vis what each was asked and expected to bring, Kwame won the battle at center. To borrow from an old PSA, this is Kaman's brain off drugs -- any questions?

Sam Cassell scored 24 points on 10-20 shooting but had no more assists (four) than Brand. Sam's looking for his shot way too much and not getting his teammates involved enough. He's also taking too many threes, going 2-8 last night. Vladimir Radmanovic went 1-5 from downtown (2-9 overall) and Cuttino Mobley 0-3. In the words of Stu Lantz, 18.8% 3FGs "will not get it done."

The Clippers signed Cat to that fat $42 million contract with visions of bingos in April and May. They traded Chris Wilcox for Vladi for the express purpose of stretching opposing defenses. But until some of these halftime heroes who can't miss in practice start translating it to game time, the Clippers will remain easy to play against in the absence of a legitimate outside threat.

Quinton Ross defended Kobe Bryant beautifully, but was limited to 27 minutes; mostly in the other 21, Bryant (who played all but 39 seconds) struck for 38 points, four below his season average against the Clippers. Odom's breakout game and another impressive performance by Luke Walton (13 and 7 on 6-10 FGs) provided all the support he needed.

The Lakers outscored the Clippers everywhere -- in the paint, at the arc, on the fastbreak, at the charity stripe where they took half again as many free throws. The Lakers were more active and aggressive, pressuring the ball upcourt, jumping into passing lanes, clogging the post, generating 17 Clipper turnovers. At times the Clippers appeared literally to hand the ball over. Shaun Livingston in particular looked like he'd mistakenly sat down at the grown folks' table for Thanksgiving dinner.

Call me Cassandra if you wish. I understand that these two losses (the Mavericks are favored to make it three tonight) aren't the end of the world. The Clippers remain .5 games ahead of Memphis and 1.5 up on Denver for home court in a prospective first-round series. But yet again in games their fans wanted desperately to win, the Clippers wilted. Like Jack Lemmon's clients the Nyborgs in Glengarry Glen Ross, they "kind of imperceptibly slumped."

Click on Clipper Talk and join the discussion. -- Jordan

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