Clippers can't contain Kobe in loss
LOS ANGELES (AP)
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Pau Gasol turned the Lakers' sixth straight win into a humanitarian venture, pledging to donate $1,000 for each point he scored to Japan relief.
By the time Clippers center Chris Kaman was ejected in the final minute for a rough pick and a demonstrative argument with Derek Fisher, most of those good feelings had dissipated in another bad-tempered meeting between Staples Center's cross-corridor rivals.
Kobe Bryant scored 37 points, Gasol added 26 points and eight rebounds, and the Los Angeles Lakers never trailed in their 14th victory in 15 games since the All-Star break, 112-104 over the Clippers on Friday night.
During a game filled with flashy plays and two more jaw-dropping alley-oop dunks by rookie Blake Griffin, the Lakers maintained a steady lead for their NBA-leading 10th wire-to-wire win of the season. Gasol played an impressive game in his charity effort, and with matching contributions from Magic Johnson, they raised $52,000.
''That meant a lot more than just a good game,'' said Gasol, who went 10 for 15 and made all six of his free throws. ''When you're playing for something beyond the usual, it makes you feel good about yourself. We're just creating awareness of how many people are suffering.''
In the final minute, the 7-foot Kaman jolted the 6-1 Fisher with a physical pick on the perimeter, with both players angered by the placement of his counterpart's elbows. Kaman and Fisher started jawing and eventually were separated by officials, who ejected Kaman and called a technical foul on Fisher with 28.8 seconds to go.
''Some people feel fondly of me, some people don't,'' shrugged Fisher, the Lakers' five-time NBA champion point guard. ''That's a part of what we do. If big guys are coming to set screens on little guys, if you're trying to tear my head off, I'm going to try to tear your head off.''
Kaman made an apparent meet-me-in-the-parking-lot gesture at Fisher on the way off the floor, but Fisher turned down teammate Matt Barnes' joking offer of backup on the way out.
''I think I'm all right. My stepson is here, and he's been lifting weights,'' Fisher said with a laugh.
Kaman refused to comment on the fracas on the way to his car, and Griffin also refused to speak to reporters.
''I thought Derek came up high on his head,'' Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said. ''I thought it was a pretty bad play on his part. Chris could have gotten hurt. There's just no reason for that. Chris was just setting a good screen. It was a legal screen, and Fisher came up high with the elbow, so the NBA will look at it and make those decisions.''
This is nothing new for the local clubs. In their meeting on Jan. 16, Griffin, Artest, Lamar Odom and Baron Davis all were ejected for a minor scuffle with 5.7 seconds left.
At least the Staples co-tenants managed to end the streak of overtimes that has plagued their building this week, with two shootout victories for the Los Angeles Kings bookending the Lakers' triple-overtime win over Phoenix and the Clippers' double-OT victory over Washington.
The Lakers (52-20) also maintained their one-game lead over Dallas (51-21) for second place in the Western Conference with 10 games to go.
Ron Artest added 15 points and Andrew Bynum had 11 points and 12 rebounds in his return from a two-game suspension for the Lakers. The Clippers had a fast break that would have trimmed the Lakers' lead to two points with 40 seconds left, but Artest swiped the ball from Griffin off the dribble.
''We made some good defensive plays down the stretch to pull that game out,'' Lakers coach Phil Jackson said.
Mo Williams scored a season-high 30 points and Griffin added 22 for the Clippers, who have lost four of six.
Eric Gordon scored seven points for the Clippers on 3-for-14 shooting, missing his first 11 shots in his fourth game back from missing 24 games with an injured right wrist.
''I had an off night,'' Gordon said. ''Things weren't going my way, and I just couldn't knock down a shot. I missed a couple of easy layups, and that happens sometimes. I thought we worked hard, and the guys came off the bench and made big plays for us.''
Bryant shot a season-high 17 free throws and moved easily on his sprained left ankle. He scored 12 points in the fourth quarter and got up smiling from a hard foul in the final seconds.
The Lakers made their first seven shots and jumped to a 16-point lead in the first quarter, which ended with a fearsome alley-oop dunk by Griffin on a pass from beyond half court by Al-Farouq Aminu.
Highlights came fast and furious in the first half, from Shannon Brown's floating-under-the-rim reverse dunk to another Griffin alley-oop. By the third quarter, Bryant conceded a layup to Williams on a 2-on-1 break rather than allowing an alley-oop to Griffin.
Notes: DeAndre Jordan had just three points in his return from a two-game absence with pneumonia. ... Bynum missed the Lakers' wins over Portland and Phoenix for a flagrant foul against Minnesota's Michael Beasley a week ago. ... The Clippers have lost eight straight ''road'' games against the Lakers.