Lakers defeat Clippers, 96-91
Metta World Peace to the rescue?
Pretty much. In a most unusual Lakers season, it was perhaps the most bizarre twist so far.
The small forward who had mostly disappeared since going to the bench this season made a three-pointer that gave the Lakers a late five-point lead, fed Andrew Bynum with a pass that turned into an easy layup and then blocked a shot by the Clippers' Chris Paul, helping the Lakers hold on Wednesday night at Staples Center to pull even in the Hallway Rivalry with one regular-season game to play.
Bynum made a few key late plays himself, including a short jumper and a block of DeAndre Jordan's shot with fewer than 30 seconds to play. Bynum finished with 19 points and six rebounds as the Lakers snapped their three-game losing streak.
The Lakers' Pau Gasol had 23 points on nine-for-13 shooting to go with 10 rebounds and Kobe Bryant added 24 points, making seven of 17 shots.
Blake Griffin scored 26 points for the Clippers but stepped out of bounds with his team trailing by only two points and 48 seconds remaining. Caron Butler and Mo Williams added 16 points each for the Clippers, who held their last lead after a Paul floater gave them an 80-79 advantage. Bryant followed with a jumper and then the Lakers added three more points from the free-throw line following a technical foul on the Clippers' Chauncey Billups.
Lakers forward Josh McRoberts picked up two technical fouls within a span of eight seconds in the final quarter and was ejected from the game.
Rookie Andrew Goudelock, supplanting Darius Morris as the Lakers' backup point guard, finished with a career-high 14 points on five-for-eight shooting. Goudelock collected more points in one night than he did in his team's first 18 games. No other bench player scored until World Peace knocked down his three-pointer that gave the Lakers an 87-82 lead.
Paul finished with four points and 12 assists in 28 minutes in his return from a hamstring injury that had sidelined him for five games.
The Clippers may very well win the season series against the Lakers for the first time in 19 years, but it's not going to be easy.
The Lakers continue to stay within a basket or two, with a late third-quarter surge from Pau Gasol making it a three-point game. Gasol made one of two free throws and then powered in for a layup, giving him 20 points in the game on eight-for-11 shooting.
Blake Griffin has 18 points and Caron Butler 16 for the Clippers. Griffin had a pair of eye-popping plays in the quarter, including an over-the-shoulder layup and a dunk off a Chauncey Billups miss in which he seemed to materialize from out of nowhere, flying into the lane for the basket.
The Clippers' DeAndre Jordan picked up his fourth foul with 6 minutes 8 seconds left in the quarter and went to the bench.
There was some shoving between the teams with 7:31 left in the quarter when the Lakers' Metta World Peace and Griffin were tangled on the floor fighting for the ball. Neither player was assessed a foul.
Clippers 51, Lakers 49 (halftime)
A rivalry that had threatened to veer wildly in the Clippers' direction swung a bit back the other way in the first half Wednesday night at Staples Center, with the Lakers keeping things close.
Lakers big men Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum helped establish an inside-out approach that had been missing in recent games, combining for 26 points on 10-for-16 shooting. Lakers guard Kobe Bryant has nine points, making three of seven shots, to go with four assists. Bryant's best pass came when he swung the ball across the court to Derek Fisher for a three-pointer shortly before halftime.
Caron Butler and Blake Griffin have done most of the damage for the Clippers, with Butler scoring 13 points and Griffin getting 12 on an impressive six-for-eight shooting. Griffin's top play came when he drove around Gasol on the baseline for a double-clutch dunk late in the second quarter.
Lakers rookie Andrew Goudelock has 10 points, matching his scoring output through the Lakers' previous 18 games this season. Goudelock made all four of his shots, including both of his three-pointers.
Both teams are making a healthy percentage of their shots, with the Lakers shooting 52.8% to the Clippers' 46.5%. The Lakers are trying to score 100 points for only the second time this season and first since Jan. 3 against Houston. They are also attempting to avoid losing the three-game season series against the Clippers, which would be assured with a defeat Wednesday.
Things got a little chippy early in the second quarter, with Gasol appearing to nudge the Clippers' Reggie Evans underneath the basket. Gasol had picked up a technical foul in the first quarter for complaining about a non-call when he thought he was fouled on a turnaround jumper.
Clippers 27, Lakers 25 (end of first quarter)
After lamenting his lack of post touches in the last few days, Pau Gasol was getting the ball early and often in the first quarter. The Lakers forward had nine points, making four of five shots.
The Clippers led by as many as 10 points midway through the quarter before the Lakers rallied to tie the score. A driving layup by Ryan Gomes late in the quarter put the Clippers back on top.
Weird stat of the quarter: Lakers rookie Andrew Goudelock had as many points (five) as did Kobe Bryant, who did not take his first shot until making a 17-foot jumper with 4 minutes 9 seconds left.
Early in the quarter, Butler did it ... and did it ... and did it.
Caron Butler scored the Clippers' first 11 points, starting with a jumper and then following with a trio of three-pointers, the last of which gave the Clippers an 11-4 advantage. Blake Griffin ended his teammate's scoring streak with a hook shot.
Butler finished the quarter with 11 points, making four of five shots and three of four three-pointers.
Clippers point guard Chris Paul, making his return after a five-game absence caused by a left hamstring injury, had five assists in seven first-quarter minutes but missed his only shot.
-- Ben Bolch
Photo: Lakers forward Pau Gasol, left, blocks a shot by Clippers forward Reggie Evans during the first half of Wednesday's game at Staples Center. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times