LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com/AP) — Xavier Henry scored a career-high 22 points, Jordan Farmar added 16, and five Los Angeles Lakers reserves led a surge past the Los Angeles Clippers in the fourth quarter for a surprising 116-103 victory in both clubs’ season opener Tuesday night.
With Kobe Bryant watching in street clothes while seated behind Pau Gasol and Steve Nash on the Lakers’ bench, Jodie Meeks scored nine of his 13 points in the fourth quarter as the Lakers stunned their Staples Center rivals in Clippers coach Doc Rivers’ debut.
No Lakers starters played in the fourth quarter as Coach Mike D’Antoni opted for a lineup comprised entirely of backups — including three who weren’t on the team last season. Henry, a former first-round pick who burned out in Memphis and New Orleans, scored 12 points in the fourth quarter while leading a decisive 28-8 run.
Blake Griffin scored 19 points and Chris Paul had 15 points and 11 assists for the Clippers, who beat the Lakers four times last season on the way to their first Pacific Division title. DeAndre Jordan added 17 points and 11 rebounds.
But the veteran Clippers had few answers for the Lakers’ young, hungry reserves in the opener. The Lakers played a free-flowing style down the stretch, and the Clippers couldn’t respond while running Rivers’ offense slowly and sluggishly.
After the offseason losses of Dwight Howard and Metta World Peace, not much is expected from the Lakers. Yet they thrived for a night without Bryant, who missed a season opener for the first time since 2006. The fourth-leading scorer in NBA history hasn’t returned to practice this fall after tearing his Achilles tendon late last season.
D’Antoni suggested the Lakers will use 11 players many nights to counteract Bryant’s absence and Nash’s fragile health — and the early results of that plan were awfully encouraging.
The reserves were led by Farmar, the two-time NBA champion guard who returned to the Lakers from Turkey this summer, and Henry, who impressed the Lakers throughout training camp.
Jordan Hill added 12 points and eight rebounds in a reserve role as the Lakers improved to 42-24 on opening night, the best winning percentage in NBA history.
Pau Gasol scored 11 of his 15 points in the first quarter and grabbed 13 rebounds.
The Clippers led 57-55 at halftime while hitting nearly 59 percent of their shots, but the Lakers outrebounded them and showed more balance with 11 players seeing action.
The Clippers pushed their lead to eight points in the third quarter, but the Lakers went ahead 86-83 with 9:06 to play on Meeks’ three-point play. The Lakers steadily increased their lead into the final minutes, and the Clippers couldn’t respond.
Both teams have downplayed the notion of a rivalry, noting the distinct differences in their pedigrees and current situations. Yet there was plenty of chippy play in the first half.
Matt Barnes, a former Laker, got a flagrant foul midway through the half, and Jordan got another flagrant call for a hard foul on former teammate Nick Young shortly before halftime. The players exchanged angry words after both plays.
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