LOS ANGELES (AP) — Kobe Bryant stuck his injured foot in an ice bucket and tried to relax. His star-studded Los Angeles Lakers are off to their first 0-3 start in 34 years, and even he isn’t sure why nothing is working so far.
“It’s particularly hard for me, because I’m not the most patient individual in the world,” Bryant said. “But you have to be. You have to be. You have to stay persistent. You have to stay committed to what you’re doing, and just keep on trucking.”
So far this season, the Lakers have been a mighty 16-wheeler broken down on the side of the interstate — while their Staples Center co-tenants are cruising down the road.
Chris Paul had 18 points and 15 assists, Jamal Crawford scored 21 points and the Clippers beat the winless Lakers 105-95 Friday night.
Bryant scored 40 points and Dwight Howard had 13 points and eight rebounds while battling constant foul trouble for the Lakers, who are 0-3 for just the fourth time in franchise history. Steve Nash sat out with a bruised left leg for the Lakers, who have followed up their 0-8 preseason with three losses in four days.
“We need a win, obviously,” Lakers coach Mike Brown said. “I’m not trying to fool anyone here. That’s part of the reason Kobe played the minutes he played, which is too many.”
Bryant logged 43 minutes on his bruised foot, which “felt like it’s about to fall off,” he said.
“We’re not supposed to coast and assume things are going to fix themselves,” Bryant said. “You’ve got to push at it. We’ve just got to keep working on what we do.”
The Clippers are no strangers to franchise turmoil, yet they coolly snapped a nine-game “road” losing streak against the Lakers dating to April 12, 2007. Blake Griffin scored 15 points before fouling out and Caron Butler had 14 for the Clippers, who pulled away steadily in the second half.
Just don’t try to tell the Clippers that they’re the new kings of L.A.
“I think it’s the second game of the year, and you’ve got two teams here that just got together,” Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said. “It’s too early to tell anything yet, other than we have to keep getting better.”
While the Clippers celebrated, the pro-Lakers crowd reacted to another loss with angry shouts piercing the silence, much of it profane criticism of Brown and his new Princeton-based offense.
Bryant attempted to put the Lakers on his shoulders in the second half, scoring 26 points out of sets that resembled the Lakers’ old offenses, but the Clippers stayed comfortably ahead with big second halves from Paul and Griffin.
“We’re getting better as a team,” Griffin said. “It’s a great win for us, because they’re a great team and they’re in our division. I think the biggest difference in these games now … is when we used to run out that tunnel for the starting lineups, nobody used to boo us. They didn’t really care. And now they throw heat a little bit. So I think that says a lot about where we’re at.”
Nash’s absence was only one reason Paul had the same number of assists as the Lakers, with Nash replacement Steve Blake managing just two assists in 38 minutes before fouling out in the final minute.
The Clippers pulled away in the third quarter, making an 18-5 run with nine points from Griffin to take an 82-67 lead into the fourth quarter. The Lakers trimmed it to 91-83 with 5 minutes to play, but Crawford and Matt Barnes kept the Clippers ahead with big buckets.
“The key was that we weathered the storm,” Paul said. “We had a lead going into the fourth, and then Kobe started being Kobe. I’ve played against the Lakers enough times to see him get like that and have them come back and win. But we got some timely shots from our bench, and they stepped up for us.”
Bryant became the Lakers’ career steals leader with his 1,725th in the third quarter, passing Magic Johnson. But the Lakers’ defense was largely ineffective against Paul, and the Clippers forced 20 Lakers turnovers.
The Lakers haven’t been very good, but they also have caught few breaks since training camp opened with Howard still recovering from offseason back surgery. Nash was hurt in the first half of the Lakers’ loss at Portland on Wednesday night in a collision with rookie Damian Lillard.
Just three games into his three-year contract with Los Angeles, the two-time MVP had to sit out. Brown doesn’t know whether Nash will play in Sunday’s home game against Detroit.
NOTES: Bryant moved past Johnson into 15th place on the NBA’s career steals list. Isiah Thomas is 14th with 1,861. … Clippers C DeAndre Jordan threw down a stunning putback dunk in the third quarter, barely throwing down a rebound before falling onto his back. Jordan scored just four points. … Barry Diller, Diane Von Furstenberg and directors Kevin Smith, James L. Brooks and Adam McKay attended the game.
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