Clippers beat Lakers 107-102 to stop 2-game skid
By BETH HARRIS
LOS ANGELES (AP) Los Angeles belongs to the Clippers right now, and they're looking for much more than city dominance at this point.
Chris Paul had 30 points and 13 assists, Blake Griffin added 24 points, and the Clippers led all the way in a 107-102 victory on Friday night, giving them two wins in two games this season against their Staples Center co-tenants. They also stopped a two-game skid and maintained the NBA's second-best record at 26-8.
"Right now we're just focused on being one of the best teams in the league, not just the city," said Lamar Odom, one of four former Lakers on the Clippers' roster. "Focus can't be just to be better than one team. Now we're trying to be great."
Bryant carried them in the fourth quarter when they closed to 99-97 on his 23-foot jumper with 1:29 left. But Paul scored the Clippers' final eight points to seal the victory and drop the Lakers two games below .500. The Clippers lead the Lakers by 10 games in the standings.
"He's lasered in on the game and trying to get us out of this ditch," new Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said about Bryant. "We've just got to keep working and keep our heads up and try to do it."
The Lakers have lost three of their last four games.
"We played extremely well and we played well defensively in the fourth quarter, so we've just got to kind of rely on that a little bit," Bryant said. "We've got to watch the film and just kind of understand some of the adjustments that we made from the first three quarters. They're just extremely athletic and they do a good job of running and getting out and getting momentum for easy baskets."
The Clippers shot 50 percent and outscored the Lakers 52-36 in the paint, but they didn't play well with the lead down the stretch. Griffin picked up his fifth foul on a technical early in the fourth.
"We let some things distract us, which gave Kobe an opportunity to make some shots at the end," Odom said. "We can't worry about officiating and the small things in the game. Tonight was a mental test. We could've done better at times, but the win we'll take."
Bryant scored 16 points in the fourth, when the Lakers rallied from 19 points down. The Clippers fouled for much of the final 5:51, and the Lakers made 10 of 12 free throws. Howard missed two foul shots but then made two to get the Lakers within four before Bryant's jumper got the Lakers the closest they had been since early in the game.
"We've just got to continually work on doing a better job finishing games out the way we need to at times," Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said. "We made it a little bit harder on ourselves than we needed to. Sometimes it wasn't efficient, but we battled the whole night, which was great."
Paul closed with a flourish, including a 6-for-6 stretch at the line, while Bryant's 3-pointer went in and out with 43 seconds to go.
"We just made a few timely shots. It was about time we make one," Paul said. "Last four minutes, we had some terrible possessions, pretty much my fault. So a great credit to our team defense."
Paul hit a step-back jumper during his late run to keep the Clippers ahead by six.
"It was a contested jumper and he knocked it down. The superstar players will do that," Bryant said. "He's very crafty, and to his credit he made some pretty tough shots."
The Lakers got within three early in the third only to have the Clippers push their lead to 10 points. It was a similar situation in the second, when the Lakers got within five points on Bryant's 3-pointer before the Clippers ran their lead back to 10 points by halftime.
"Look at the difference between our team and theirs," Howard said. "They just play together. They share the ball. Everybody's excited when something happens. We have to be like that to be a great team."
The first three quarters were punctuated with several highlight dunks from both sides. Paul fed DeAndre Jordan and Griffin on alley-oop slams that had the sellout crowd of 20,179 roaring.
The Clippers dropped consecutive games at Denver and Golden State earlier in the week, when their 17-game winning streak was snapped. They host the Warriors on Saturday night, looking for their first win in three games against them this season.
"Those guys have been resting since they played us a few nights ago," Paul said. "It's our home game and we've got to take the momentum and beat them."
NOTES: Clippers F Jamal Crawford missed the game with a sore left foot that he hurt in Denver. ... Clippers G Chauncey Billups will start working out Saturday after being out most of the season recovering from surgery. ... Clippers F Grant Hill is expected to return next week after missing all season because of surgery.
Updated January 5, 2013