By Jahmal Corner
LOS ANGELES, Jan 4 (Reuters) – Chris Paul and the Clippers maintained a grip on top billing in Los Angeles with a tense 107-102 victory over the Lakers on Friday to cement their status as the city’s best team.
Paul withstood a fierce challenge from Kobe Bryant, recording 30 points and 13 assists to Bryant’s 38 points, and the Clippers moved further ahead in both the standings and the crosstown rivalry.
The Lakers did their best to tear up the script late on by climbing out of a 19-point deficit in the fourth quarter and closing to 99-97 with two minutes remaining.
However, Paul shut the door on the Lakers, scoring the final eight points for his team, including a tough step-back jumper over the outstretched Bryant in the waning moments.
Blake Griffin added 24 points in the winning effort while Dwight Howard put up 21 points and 15 rebounds for the Lakers (15-17), who have lost three of their last four.
Despite sharing the Staples Center, the teams have had little else in common this season as the Clippers (26-8) have raced toward the top of the West while the Lakers are struggling to find an identity under new coach Mike D’Antoni. (Editing by John O’Brien)