Los Angeles Clippers vs. Los Angeles Lakers: Postgame Grades and Analysis
The Los Angeles Clippers swept the season series with the Los Angeles Lakers during the 2012-13 season, but the Purple and Gold made sure that history wouldn't repeat itself with a 116-103 victory on Tuesday night.
Although the Lakers entered halftime facing a two-point deficit, their offense kept pace with the Clippers' revamped starting five as their bench assumed control of the game with a stunning fourth-quarter display.
Outscoring the Clippers 41-24 in the game's final stanza, the Lakers showed that they may be able to sustain offensive success in the absence of Kobe Bryant thanks to unsung names like Jordan Farmar and Jordan Hill.
The biggest surprise of all, though, was free-agent signee Xavier Henry, who scored a career-high 22 points in his Staples Center debut on 8-of-13 shooting (3-of-4 from three).
On the night, the Lakers shot 45.2 percent from the floor and 48.3 percent from three in what can only be described as a surprising outcome.
The Lakers are now 5-0 in season openers without Kobe Bryant.
Chris Paul, LAC: B+
Chris Paul knows how to fill up a stat sheet, and he made that abundantly clear with a balanced and efficient performance against the Los Angeles Lakers.
Running an offense that already looks vastly improved from the one Vinny Del Negro had installed, Paul benefited from the presence of multiple perimeter scorers and smooth pick-and-rolls, which the Lakers struggled to defend all night.
Controlling the rhythm of Doc Rivers' offense throughout, Paul finished with 15 points, 11 assists and six rebounds, falling four rebounds shy of a triple-double.
Paul shot a disappointing 38.5 percent from the field, but his double-double productivity made up for his relatively poor shooting night.
Steve Nash, LAL: D
This isn't the same Steve Nash we've all grown to know and love. At this stage in his career, Nash appears to be transitioning into a role as a game manager first and playmaker second.
Nash's explosiveness is noticeably limited if not entirely gone at 39 years old, and he'll be the recipient of fewer minutes as a result. On Tuesday, he totaled 21 minutes of run.
Statistical excellence eluded Nash, and it's telling that his most noteworthy contribution on the night came in the form of a banked-in three from the right wing. That make was his lone bucket.
Three points and five assists were the highlights of his line.
J.J. Redick, LAC: B
The hype surrounding the Los Angeles Clippers' improved perimeter attack had a great deal to do with the addition of J.J. Redick, and boy did he live up to it early.
True on five of his first six shots, Redick accounted for 12 of the Clips' first 20 points, assuming the role of offensive catalyst as several of Doc Rivers' starters deferred to the big summer acquisition in the early going.
However, Redick slowly fell out of his groove and finished with 13 points (5-of-12 shooting), three assists and two rebounds.
Steve Blake, LAL: C
Kobe Bryant's ongoing rehabilitation means that Steve Blake will be the Los Angeles Lakers' stopgap solution at shooting guard moving forward.
Never known as a particularly reliable defender, Blake reinforced that notion with shaky defense on Redick, who dropped in 13 points on an efficient 5-of-8 shooting in the first half.
Phased out of the offense in the first half, touches slowly came to Blake as the game progressed, although he never made a profound impact with his jump shot.
The Lakers made it rain from three throughout, and Blake contributed two makes from beyond for a total of six points.
Jared Dudley, LAC: C-
Nothing flashy here.
Jared Dudley was overshadowed by fellow offseason addition J.J. Redick as he struggled to find his stroke from beyond the arc.
Although he was open on a number of occasions, the former Phoenix Sun converted on just one of his four looks from three and finished with a meager five points.
With Redick possessing a wider variety of offensive tools, Dudley figures to take a backseat in the scoring department to his perimeter complement.
Nick Young, LAL: C
With Nick Young, you can expect plenty of volatility on a night-to-night and even a quarter-to-quarter basis.
And on Tuesday evening, that much was evident.
"Swaggy P" finished with 13 points on 3-of-10 shooting, but his disregard for efficiency has to be taken into account when evaluating his regular-season debut for the Los Angeles Lakers.
Six of Young's points came from the free-throw line, as his jump shot was far from reliable.
Blake Griffin, LAC: B+
Thirteen second-quarter points got Blake Griffin on the right track after a sluggish start.
Although he shot 3-of-10 from the free-throw line on the night, Griffin took advantage of the Los Angeles Lakers' porous pick-and-roll defense, diving to the hoop time and again for easy finishes at the rim.
With a team-high 19 points, Griffin acquitted himself nicely and continued to prove that he's more than just a slam dunk artist.
A savvy offensive player who has shown a dedication to detail and refining his skill set, Griffin is becoming the complete package at power forward.
In addition to 19 points, Griffin totaled seven boards, three assists and a steal.
Shawne Williams, LAL: C-
With the Los Angeles Lakers extremely thin up front, Mike D'Antoni opted to go with Shawne Williams as his starting 4 in an attempt to space the floor.
However, Williams was limited early, as he was replaced by Chris Kaman just four minutes into the first quarter. He was the first starter to sit.
Williams cashed in the first two points of the Lakers' season but wasn't particularly involved in the offense outside of an early touch or two.
If Tuesday night was a sign of things to come, Williams' role in the rotation will be overshadowed by Kaman, who showed a nice rapport with Pau Gasol as they worked off of each other in the high-and-low post.
Williams played the fewest minutes of any Lakers starter (13), scored three points and blocked two shots.
DeAndre Jordan, LAC: A-
DeAndre Jordan burst out of the gate with plenty of energy and a few highlight-reel slams, but his defensive contributions were rather underwhelming.
Pau Gasol and Chris Kaman feasted on the Clips center in the first quarter, combining to score 17 points and rack up nine rebounds over the game's first 12 minutes.
However, Jordan was effective on the offensive end, contributing 10 first-half points thanks to a series of second-chance buckets and lobs, besting his 2012-13 season average of 8.8 points in just 19 minutes.
Jordan added seven second-half points to finish with 17 on the night, tacking on 11 rebounds, three steals and three blocks in a total of 35 minutes.
Pau Gasol, LAL: A
With Kobe Bryant out, Pau Gasol became the focal point of Mike D'Antoni's offense, a trend that should continue so long as the "Mamba" is absent from the starting lineup.
In stark contrast to much of last season, Gasol played out of the post a majority of the time, using his deadly face-up and sleek post-up game to wreak havoc on the Los Angeles Clippers defense.
He also showed a continued ability to stretch the floor early, knocking down a three from the top of the arc in the first quarter.
Gasol's rim protection was rather disappointing, though, and did little to ease concerns regarding the team's defensive limitations in the frontcourt.
Overall, it was nice to see Gasol capable of carrying the load, particularly when he was given the keys to the offense. In Bryant's absence, his offensive production is going to be absolutely crucial.
Gasol led the Lakers in turnovers with five, but 15 points, 13 rebounds and four assists were enough to overshadow a bit of sloppiness.
Jamal Crawford, SG, LAC: C
Last season's runner-up in Sixth Man of the Year voting, Jamal Crawford wasn't exactly sharp in his return to the floor.
If he's not scoring, Crawford has a hard time establishing an identity, and that was the case for much of the night.
He added a few garbage-time threes and led all Clippers bench scorers with 15 points, but he hit on just five of his 13 attempts from the field.
Jordan Farmar, PG, LAL: A
Jordan Farmar received a warm ovation in his return to Staples Center and delivered a solid effort, much to the delight of those in attendance.
With the gimpy Steve Nash on a tighter minutes restriction this season, Farmar was thrust into action early and often and saw the floor for 27 minutes compared to 21 for the future Hall of Famer.
Flashing a quick burst off the dribble, Farmar showed why he's going to be a valuable piece of the Lakers' backcourt rotation this season.
Considering Nash and Blake are more limited in their abilities to attack the rim, Farmar has an inside-outside game that effectively complements what the Lakers' other two point guards bring to the table.
Farmar produced 16 points, six assists, four rebounds and a steal in a show-stopping performance.
Clippers Bench: D
Doc Rivers' rotation went four men deep (excluding Reggie Bullocks' one minute in garbage time) in the Los Angeles Clippers' season opener, with Matt Barnes, Ryan Hollins and Darren Collison all seeing minutes alongside Jamal Crawford.
Barnes was his usual feisty self and even flashed midseason form in the flagrant foul department, picking up one of the less severe variety during the first quarter. He managed eight points and six rebounds, but posted a putrid minus-15 in the plus/minus column.
Darren Collison chipped in nine points as well, but it was the Los Angeles Lakers bench that truly stole the show.
Lakers Bench: A
The Lakers bench came to play, which was surprising, considering all of the preseason talk surrounding the team's apparent lack of depth.
Mike D'Antoni ran with his bench mob for the entirety of the fourth quarter, and it's safe to say that it vastly outplayed the Clippers starters in the game's final frame.
While Tuesday night only provided us with an extremely small sample size, the Lakers reserves totaled 76 points, with Xavier Henry, Chris Kaman and Jordan Hill all putting forth extremely strong performances.
The most encouraging development came courtesy of Henry, who provided the perimeter defense and off-the-dribble scoring that the Lakers sorely need in order to remain competitive this season.
Jodie Meeks emerged as a key contributor as well, dropping in 13 points on 4-of-8 shooting.
Henry and Kaman finished with 22 and 10 points, respectively, while Hill's aggressive style of play produced 12 points and eight rebounds.
It's also worth noting five of the Lakers' six bench players finished with a positive plus/minus.
The lone blemish came courtesy of Wesley Johnson, who shot 1-of-11 from the floor and scored just three points.