He's been in the NBA for a while now, but not even Chauncey Billups was around the last time the Clippers took a season series from the Lakers.It still matters.
Billups scored 21 points, hitting five 3-pointers, and the Clippers pulled off a 125-101 victory over the Lakers on Thursday night at Staples Center and moved out to a 3-0 lead in the series this season.That hasn't happened since 1992-93. And these Clippers admit they think about the historical implications. "Yeah, we do, even though none of us were a part of that," Billups said. "We don't want people looking at the Clippers like they used to. I think it is a new day for the Clipper fans and the Clipper organization and we're out to prove that every single night."
Paul had 24 points and 13 assists, Blake Griffin had 22 points and 10 rebounds and Butler and Matt Barnes each connected for three 3-pointers as the Clippers improved to 39-17 heading into the All-Star break. The Clippers hit on 16 of 30 3-point attempts and were threatened only once after running out to a 15-0 lead. It was a somber night for the Lakers, knowing that owner Jerry Buss had been hospitalized amid reports he was receiving visits from current and former Lakers.
"They beat us. They kicked us," Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said. "Our start obviously was bad and we missed a lot of shots. Give them credit. They were shooting the ball well. In the second quarter, we were within three points and we let it get away. They put us in a hole again after fighting back." Kobe Bryant had 20 points and 11 assists for the Lakers (25-29), who never led. They got within 50-47 in the second period, but the Clippers took off on an 11-0 run and had a 64-52 halftime lead. "We stayed aggressive all the way through the game," Billups said. "They made a run and cut it to three and we stayed poised and kept doing the things we did that got us the lead and I was proud of the team for that."
Paul and Griffin head off to this weekend's All-Star activities in Houston with the Clippers poised to make a serious run in the Western Conference when the season resumes Thursday at home against San Antonio. Bryant and Dwight Howard will also head to the All-Star but must be wondering what they will return to. They might also be asking "Wherefore art Pau?" Pau Gasol and his injured foot aren't going to be walking through any of their doors for weeks, which not only hampers the Lakers on the court but limits their trade options off of it.
The Lakers got a brief spark from reserve forward Antawn Jamison, who scored 13 of his 17 points in the second period. Howard had 18 points and eight rebounds, but the Clippers went 7-for-12 on 3-point tries in the third quarter to extend their lead to 21 points.
"We're not going to hang our heads. We're going to keep fighting," said Lakers guard Steve Nash, who finished with I thought our offense hurt our defense." Can the Lakers still make the playoffs, despite their record?
"We can do it, but we have to play better (than we did) tonight," D'Antoni said.