While the Clips could not complete their rally from 21 points down in the second half, the upstart franchise won something more important: They beat the Lakers—who defeated the Boston Celtics earlier in the day at Staples—in generating noise.
In a season that has seen the Lakers fall and the Clippers rise to a tie in the Western Conference standings heading into Sunday's action, the Lakers might have defeated their clover-clad rivals, but it might be the first of many culturally Pyrrhic victories for Kobe Bryant's squad.
The Lakers opened up the action at Staples decked out in their Sunday white uniforms and playing on ABC in front of a national audience. Yet, even as the Lakers found themselves neck-and-neck with Boston down the stretch, the most their fans could muster were several halfhearted chants of "defense," the occasional clamor and applause when the home team scored and the traditionally obligatory celebration when all was said and done.
For three quarters, the Clippers were no better.
Blake Griffin and company quickly took the evening crowd out of the game with lackadaisical shooting performances, including an absolutely dreadful 54.3 percent display from the free-throw line.
In the fourth, there was a spark.
Reggie Evans made a layup followed by a pair of free throws. Lob City started to take hold as Griffin put away several driving layups and dunks, assists to Mo Williams, Eric Bledsoe and Randy Foye.
The Clippers began playing great defense, inducing forcing several turnovers, executing several steals and drawing a key offensive foul from Monta Ellis.
By the time the score had reached 83-83, fans were in a frenzy.
The Lakers' spectators might have chanted "defense" earlier in the day, but Clipper Nation was yelling "DEFENSE" during the nightcap.
But as soon as it began, it was all over.
On a drive to the basket that could have resulted in Los Angeles reclaiming the lead for the first time since the first quarter, Griffin became entangled with the Warriors' David Lee as whistles rained down from multiple sources.
Bingo-man Ralph Lawler thought it was a shooting foul, but the defensive challenge that sent Griffin slamming to the floor was ruled a jump ball.
And with that loud smack of Griffin hitting the hardwood, the air had left the balloon.
The Clippers controlled the ensuing tip, but turned the ball over on a shot clock violation barely five seconds later.
Bledsoe's four-foot jumper with 3:04 to play was blocked by Ekpe Udoh, followed by another disappointing one-for-two trip to the free-throw line for the Clips.
Griffin was called for an illegal assist for using the basket's netting in an attempt to secure a rebound, followed by a frustration foul moments later.
From 1:45 down to 20 seconds to play—when the Clippers still had a chance to come back—Los Angeles converted just two out of six shot attempts and featured a blown putback dunk attempt from Griffin—a misfire that seemed to draw only back iron as the rebound scurried straight to Golden State.
Though the Clippers came up short Sunday, the club once again showed a capability to come back in tough ballgames and put themselves in position to win. Unfortunately, that effort appeared to have started and stopped late in the fourth quarter.
Just imagine how loud Staples could have been had the Clippers played with such enthusiasm since the opening tip and through the final horn.
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