Clippers halt skid, Lakers post rare big win

Updated 29 January 2013
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Clippers halt skid, Lakers post rare big win

LOS ANGELES: The Los Angeles Clippers arrested their four-game losing skid while their city rivals the Los Angeles Lakers provided a rare bright spot in their dire season by beating the NBA-leading Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday.
The Clippers were again without star guard Chris Paul but this time his teammates picked up the slack and beat the Portland Trail Blazers 96-83.
The Lakers stood firm in the closing stages to hold off the Thunder and win 105-96, temporarily easing the gloom around the heralded title contenders who have a disappointing 19-25 record. The defeat cost Oklahoma City the league lead, dropping below San Antonio.
In other key games, Carmelo Anthony led New York to a tight win over Atlanta and Boston had a bittersweet night, beating Miami in double overtime but learning that guard Rajon Rondo will miss the rest of the season.
In the absence of Paul, it was Blake Griffin (23 points and nine assists) and stand-in point guard Eric Bledsoe (10 points, five assists and five rebounds) who played the key roles in the win over Portland.
All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge led the Trail Blazers with 21 points and 11 rebounds but the visitors were never in the contest.
The Lakers beat the Thunder 105-96, with Kobe Bryant having 21 points, 14 assists and nine rebounds.
Steve Nash added seven of his 17 points in the final 5 1/2 minutes as the Lakers coolly maintained a small lead in the closing stages.
Kevin Durant scored 35 points for road-weary Oklahoma City, who finished their longest trip of the season at 3-3.
The New York Knicks edged the Atlanta Hawks 106-104 thanks chiefly to the efforts of Anthony, who tied a franchise record with nine 3-pointers, then converted a go-ahead, three-point play with 12.5 seconds left to cap a 42-point night.
The Hawks shot a season-high 60 percent from the field but had their three-game winning streak snapped when Josh Smith missed a 3-pointer on Atlanta’s final possession.
Amare Stoudemire and J.R. Smith each had 18 points for the Knicks, who were 16 of 27 (59 percent) from 3-point range.
Boston’s Rondo will require major surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee which he damaged against Atlanta on Friday. The news put a dampener on the Celtics’ 100-98 win over the Miami Heat.
Paul Pierce hit a go-ahead jumper with 31 seconds left in the second overtime to give the Celtics victory.
Kevin Garnett had 24 points and 11 rebounds, and Pierce added 17 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists for the Celtics, who ended a six-game losing streak, their longest in six seasons.
LeBron James scored 34 points for the Heat, who had won four in a row. It was the first game in Boston for Ray Allen since he left the Celtics after five seasons and signed as a free agent with Miami. He scored 21 points.
The New Orleans Hornets rode the hot shooting of Ryan Anderson to a 91-83 win over the Memphis Grizzlies.
Anderson scored 22 points connecting on seven 3-pointers. Anderson was 7 of 13 from the field, all of his attempts coming from outside the arc. Fellow reserve Jason Smith was 5 of 7 from the field for 16 points.
Zach Randolph led Memphis with 20 points and 13 rebounds for his league-leading 28th double-double.
In other games, the Dallas Mavericks had a 110-95 win over the Phoenix Suns to celebrate Shawn Marion’s 1,000th game, while the Detroit Pistons downed the Orlando Magic 104-102 with Brandon Knight scoring a career-high 31 points including five 3-pointers.


Inquest begins at LA Lakers as LeBron James misses out on NBA playoffs

Updated 21 min 54 sec ago
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Inquest begins at LA Lakers as LeBron James misses out on NBA playoffs

LONDON: The post-mortem on Los Angeles’ Lakers season has begun after the storied franchise missed out on the NBA playoffs for a sixth consecutive year this weekend.
It was not meant to be like this, especially after the signing of LeBron James — the man who single-handedly dragged his hometown team Cleveland Cavaliers to a championship in 2016 and was instrumental in Miami Heat’s dominance in the first half of the decade.
James’ mercurial talent was often the difference for those two franchises in clutch situations throughout the season, but for all the fanfare on his arrival at the Staples Center last summer, the “James Effect” has failed to materialize in California.
He has often called his own superhuman efforts in the run up to — and during — the postseason the “Playoff Mode,” but even the genius of James was not enough to put his new franchise into the picture.
It did not help that as soon as it became clear they were not going to be appear beyond April 10, made all the clearer by a recent humbling defeat to the league’s worst team (New York Knicks), James has been benched more and more by the management.
And it speaks volumes about the problems at the Lakers that it will be the first playoffs without James featuring since 2005. Not only had he played in the playoffs for 13 consecutive seasons with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Miami Heat, he had also played in eight straight NBA finals.
Granted, James — a three-time NBA champion and four-time league Most Valuable Player — was adamant back in September that the task of rebuilding the Lakers, who had missed the playoffs for five straight seasons would be a long-term project.
“Obviously, I would love for the team to be in the post-season,” James said as soon as it became clear he and the team would miss out on the playoff party.
“But right now, it’s not the hand I was dealt, so you play the hand that you were dealt until the dealer shuffles the cards and you’re dealt another hand and can do that.”
So what has gone so terribly wrong with the Lakers this year?
A big factor was injuries, not only to James but to other key players, throughout the season.
Everything looked rosy for the Lakers toward the end of December when they thrashed reigning champions Golden State Warriors, but a groin injury to James was a sign of the bad run to come. In his 17-game absence, the Lakers won just six games.
Then Lonzo Ball sprained an ankle in January, leaving the Lakers defense very vulnerable while Brandon Ingram, who had been influential in the team reaching the dizzying heights of fourth place in the Western Conference, was ruled out for the rest of the season due to a blood clot in his arm. Those certainly were damaging injuries.
The Lakers, also, have built too much of the team and its tactics around James. They have a good core of young talent in Ball, Ingram and Kyle Kuzuma, but management has not utilized them nearly well enough. Instead, for the first half of the season definitely, there was too much focus put on James and he was expected to win games almost by himself. Even the greatest player of a generation needs help from time to time.
The boardroom has to take some responsibility, too. Letting players like Brook Lopez (having a remarkable season with this year’s huge surprise package the Milwaukee Bucks), Julius Randle who averages 20 points per game at New Orleans and Brooklyn’s D’Angelo Russell (picked as an All-Star this year) leave was a major mistake on the Lakers’ part.
There will need to be a big rethink in the off-season at the Lakers, but with James admitting a break from the high-pressure playoffs will give him time to “recalibrate body and mind,” you cannot rule out “King James” coming back better and stronger than ever to claim a fourth NBA title and bring back the good times to LA.