LOS ANGELES (AP)—For the Los Angeles Lakers, it was a game of major importance.
To the Los Angeles Clippers, it was anything but crucial.
That’s typical of late-season matchups between the crosstown rivals, but this was different than the norm since the Clippers are the ones with the playoff berth locked up and the Lakers are still battling to get there.
That’s not how it usually goes.
Kobe Bryant scored 17 of his 38 points in the fourth quarter, Lamar Odom had 23 points and 15 rebounds, and the Lakers took a large step toward qualifying for the postseason by beating the Clippers 100-83 Sunday night.
“We are a physical team and we got after them a little bit,” Bryant said. “We spaced the floor extremely well and executed our offense pretty well. Defensively we did a good job being active and getting our hands on loose balls.”
Luke Walton added 13 points and seven rebounds for the Lakers (41-37), who outscored the Clippers 20-6 to finish the game in snapping a two-game losing streak and winning for the seventh time in 10 games.
Bryant played all but 39 seconds despite a sore left calf.
“I couldn’t even run this morning,” said Bryant, who was accidentally kicked near the end of a 107-96 loss at Phoenix on Friday night. “They did a lot of therapy on me.”
Bryant shot 14-of-27 and also had five rebounds and five assists. He had scored 40 or more points in his previous four games including 51 against the Suns.
The Lakers are tied for seventh place with Sacramento in the Western Conference—three games ahead of Utah and New Orleans, who are tied for ninth. The top eight teams advance to the playoffs.
“We needed this game, so I just wanted to stay aggressive around the boards, find the basket, get some easy shots and go to the free throw line,” Odom said.
Elton Brand had 24 points and 10 rebounds and Sam Cassell also scored 24 for the Clippers (44-32), who clinched the seventh playoff berth in the 36-year history of the franchise on Saturday night when New Orleans lost at Dallas.
The Clippers will play in the postseason for the first time in nine years and just the fourth time since 1976, when they were the Buffalo Braves.
“It’s great, but I don’t feel anything other than this is what I expected,” Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy said before the game. “I thought last summer we were a playoff team, we could win 45 games if we could avoid the injuries. We did it with the injuries. From that standpoint, I’m more pleased.
Corey Maggette has missed 45 games including the last two because of back spasms. He was sidelined for three months due to an injured left foot before returning March 3.
Dunleavy had a different take after the game.
“If we go into the playoffs like this, we’re going to be one and done,” he said. “We were careless—the turnovers that we made translated into easy layups and scores for them. In the fourth quarter, turnovers and some of our shot selection just wasn’t very good.”
The Clippers committed seven of their 18 turnovers in the final period.
The Lakers led by three points when Bryant scored five straight and Odom added a dunk against his former teammates to make it 87-77 with 5:25 remaining. The Clippers didn’t threaten after that.
Three-point plays by Quinton Ross and Cassell capped a 13-4 run by the Clippers and tied the game at 65 with 3:45 left in the third quarter. The Lakers led 72-69 entering the final period.
Asked if his team might have experienced a letdown since it had already clinched a playoff berth, Dunleavy replied: “I don’t even want to talk about something like that. That should have no relevance to what we do.”
Brand didn’t sound so sure.
“We need to learn exactly what it takes to win ballgames,” he said. “I don’t know if it was the fact that we clinched a playoff berth. They (Lakers) are fighting for their playoff lives and they’re playing like it. They are stripping the ball. We get a rebound and then they get the ball. It was so disappointing that we weren’t tougher than that tonight.”
Dunleavy said he has no idea when Maggette will return to action. “He literally can’t get out of bed,” the coach said. “He went to a doctor, a chiropractor, a therapist.” … The Lakers have a 30-7 record in the last 37 games between the games. … Their overall record against the Clippers is 126-43. … The Clippers made the playoffs while playing in Buffalo in 1974, 1975 and 1976, and again while playing in Los Angeles in 1992, 1993 and 1997. … Lakers C Chris Mihm sat out his 14th game since spraining his right ankle March 12. … The Clippers had a franchise-best 49-33 record in the 1974-75 season while playing in Buffalo, and went 46-36 the following season. The 1992-93 team’s 45-37 record ranks third. The franchise moved to San Diego in 1978 and to Los Angeles six years later. … The Lakers play their four remaining games at home. The Clippers play three of their last six at home.