The Clippers appeared poised to finish Christmas Day with a decisive victory over the Lakers at Staples Center, but nearly lost control of the contest when they pulled their starters, exposing their subpar bench. Chris Paul (23 points) helped close things out for the 94–84 win Friday night, and Kobe Bryant took a backseat in what was his final Christmas game, scoring 12 points in 26 minutes.
Well, Kobe Bryant’s last Christmas game came and went rather quietly. Aside from some moments toward the end of the first half (a couple of threes), he remained off the floor, and off the board, for a considerable amount of the game. Bryant shot 4-of-10 and wasn’t used late during the Lakers’ rally. The Clippers pulled away by 28 after three, and while the Lakers bench was able to mount a comeback, it came without the Black Mamba.
Chris Paul was superb, going for 23 points on 11-of-19 shooting to go along with six assists and five boards. He helped the Clippers improve to 17–13 and fend off a late charge from the Lakers.
The biggest bright spot for the Lakers, outside of a nice fourth-quarter comeback effort, was the play of D’Angelo Russell. He started red hot with 12 points on 5-of-6 shooting in nine minutes, and added a few nice plays in the second half to finish with 16 and seven rebounds.
At the very least, the Lakers’ surge made this game watchable late into the night, so that was welcomed after a long day of basketball. On a few occasions, the fans at Staples Center broke out some “KO-BE” chants, but he politely ignored them so he could allow his teammates to continue cooking. That was cool.
Naughty: Nick Young, Lakers. Christmas Day. Lakers vs. Clippers. Big stage. This should’ve been a Swaggy P game, but he disappointed finishing without a bucket on five shots in 22 minutes. It was logical to think Nick Young would at least try to get up as many as Bryant (10). Honorable mention might have to go to Paul Pierce, who was just 1-of-6 shooting and shot a big ol’ airball during the contest.
Nice: D’Angelo Russell, Lakers. Chris Paul is too easy of a pick, so let’s go with Russell. He knocked down shots, showcased his height and athleticism with a nice block in the second half, and managed to pull down seven rebounds. He probably could have done a better job guarding Paul, but that’s not an easy task. It was nice to see the rookie unleashed in front of a national audience.
Style watch: Any doubt that these are the best Christmas jerseys of all time? They looked especially good on these two teams. The cursive made a return on the Clippers’ tops, and they were by far the best uniforms they’ve worn all year. On the other side, the Lakers’ purple made for a really nice accent. The shoes of the game went to Jordan Clarkson, who donned some “Grinch” Kobe VI’s. Unfortunately for the sophomore, he had to purchase them at a local retailer, according to the Lakers broadcast. Bryant apparently wasn’t able to hook him up for the holiday.
Biggest takeaway: This was not a pretty game to watch by any stretch. Both teams were careless with the ball for most of the night, Roy Hibbert was taking tons of jumpshots, and Young didn’t have a bucket. The Clippers almost lost their grip on the lead, which shows just how shallow their bench is. Neither one of these squads really impressed.