LOS ANGELES (AP)—Phil Jackson had warned the Lakers not to overlook the lowly Los Angeles Clippers. What he didn’t count on was his team’s errant offense.
Jackson was so disgusted after the Lakers blew most of a 19-point lead in the fourth quarter that he didn’t take questions from reporters.
“I was not happy with the ballgame,” he said. “We didn’t do the game plan the right way.”
The Lakers’ 61st victory was listless against a team that trails them by 43 games in the Western Conference. But they did just enough to win their third in a row, improve to 33-5 at home and assert themselves as the dominant tenant at Staples Center.
“Happy we won, especially looking at Cleveland and Orlando,” Odom said. “Everybody’s a little bit beat up and tired. It’s all about finding a way to win.”
The Lakers have already clinched home-court advantage through the conference finals, but with five games remaining, still have a shot at edging the Cavaliers to earn home-court throughout the NBA finals. The Lakers already own the tiebreaker, having beaten LeBron James & Co. twice.
“Disappointed,” Bryant said about the close call. “We didn’t play as hard defensively during the stretch.”
“It was about time that we stood up and started fighting back and pushing back against the team that is the well-oiled machine,” said Baron Davis, whose jumper went off the rim as time expired. “We were close.”
Trailing 81-62 in the fourth—their third 19-point deficit—the Clippers scored 16 in a row, including eight by Fred Jones, to close to 81-78 with 2 1/2 minutes remaining.
“We got good stops, Kobe wasn’t making shots and we got out and Eric hit some big shots,” Randolph said. “We hit big shots and got defensive stops and that is what got us back in the game.”
Bryant stopped the run, but just barely, as his first free throw spun and bounced around before going down. He made the second and the Lakers clung to an 83-78 lead.
But Jones hit a floating jumper to get the Clippers within three. Bryant’s 3-point attempt bounced off the rim, the Clippers snagged the rebound, then Odom fouled Gordon. The rookie made both and the Clippers trailed 83-82 with 1:09 to play.
Pau Gasol’s driving layup and another pair of free throws by Bryant kept the Lakers ahead 87-82. Gasol finished with 14 points.
Gordon hit a 3-pointer that drew the Clippers to 87-85 with 5 seconds to go.
Derek Fisher got fouled and missed the first one with the crowd on its feet. He made the second, helped by some body English, for an 88-85 lead.
The Lakers hardly lit it up, shooting 42 percent (33-of-78) for the game. Bryant and Odom both missed pairs of free throws in the third quarter, when the Clippers twice got within five points.
But with Randolph and Davis each picking up their third fouls around the same time, the Lakers closed the quarter on an 11-4 run to lead 68-56 going into the fourth. Odom hit a 3-pointer and benefited on a goaltending call against Skinner, while Bryant scored the Lakers’ final three points.
“Offense comes and goes. Sometimes you hit shots, sometimes you don’t,” Bryant said. “You got to defend. Our offense let us down, our defense kept the lead.”
The Lakers could be getting Andrew Bynum back this week. He’s been out since tearing a right knee ligament on Jan. 31 at Memphis. The third-year center will work out again Monday, but won’t travel with the team to Sacramento for its game Tuesday.