Once upon a time, the Los Angeles Lakers ruled the city without any hint of a challenge from the Los Angeles Clippers. Things have changed. The 123-87 win wasn’t surprising, but it does show just how far these two franchises have drifted apart from each other in recent years, in a direction most wouldn’t expect.
No Chris Paul? Not much of a problem. The Clippers have won five of their last six thanks to a comfortable schedule, but also thanks to Blake Griffin taking the next step in his transformation from a dunking highlight film to a complete and well rounder superstar. He finished with 33 points, 12 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 steals and 2 blocks. He had no problem, along with DeAndre Jordan, dominating in the paint and outside of it, as the Lakers looked embarrassing in the opening quarter and even more so in the third quarter, scoring a combined 33 points in those two.
They just killed us. Everybody knows the Lakers are going to come back strong. That’s still a good team to me. Right now, it seems like teams are playing with too much confidence. They’re taking for granted that the Lakers are just an easy game, that they’re going to come out and are just going to score 120-130 points, everybody’s going to get their points, and it’s going to be a wonderful night. We’ve just got to cut that out somehow.
No defense has been a big reason why the Lakers have lost 10 of their last 11 games, with the last five of them coming in double digits. Jodie Meeks played for 32 minutes and the Lakers were losing by 43 points during his time on the floor. They had six players in double figures, but shot only 34.5% from the field, as it seems the slightest hint of physicality and a bit of speed and thinking on the other side is too much for them to handle.
The Clippers 36-point win was their biggest against the Lakers in franchise history, beating the previous record of 31 points from 1992. Even without their best player it wasn’t really a fair fight, as Darren Collison did a very good job with 20 points and 7 assists. The pressure led to 21 turnovers by the Lakers, which the Clippers scored 37 points off of. They dominated the paint with 13 blocks and a total of 56 rebounds, while Jordan wasn’t far from a triple double – 13 points, 10 rebounds and 7 blocks.
The Clippers aren’t done trying to sign players and would like to improve their bench while Paul is out, hopefully with Andrew Bynum. Nothing but a serious challenge for the NBA title (which means at least a Western conference final) is going to satisfy them this season, and with the West shaping out in a certain way over the last three weeks, it’ll be ridiculous to count them out, especially once Paul returns.
The Lakers? There’s nothing to hope for in the near future but for this season to end. Even the fun basketball that’s been part of their growing process is gone, and it seems that the losing, along with their awful defending and softness in pretty much every position has become into this contagious infection that’s slowly dragging this team down to the bottom of the league.