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Saturday, April 20, 2024

Lakers, Clippers barreling towards arguably the largest recreation in historical past of their Los Angeles rivalry

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There’s loads of animosity between the NBA’s two Los Angeles groups, however it might hardly be truthful to name the Lakers and Clippers rivals. In spite of everything, one staff has 17 championships and the opposite has none. The Lakers and Clippers have by no means confronted off in a postseason collection, and so they’ve solely even made the postseason in the identical 12 months eight instances. For many of basketball historical past, the Lakers have contended whereas the Clippers have tanked, and the second the Clippers had been prepared to hitch them on prime of the mountain, the Lakers tumbled again all the way down to Earth.

The summer time of 2019 was presupposed to lastly give us the fabled streetlights vs. spotlights rivalry. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George spurned the Lakers for the Clippers. The little brother was the championship favourite… after which blew a 3-1 result in a Nuggets staff that the Lakers beat on their solution to the 2020 title. Accidents depleted the 2 groups from there. For the entire opening evening and Christmas showdowns, the Lakers and Clippers have nonetheless by no means actually managed to play a really significant recreation with important stakes for each side.

Effectively, that is about to alter. The Lakers have by no means led the Clippers within the standings this season, nor have they been tied since opening evening. In actual fact, the Clippers have led the Lakers by as many as 6.5 video games this season, however fortune has slowly shifted in favor of the purple and gold ever since. The Lakers acquired wholesome. The Clippers caught the harm bug. The Lakers dumped Russell Westbrook and soared. The Clippers signed Russell Westbrook and noticed firsthand why the Lakers had been so keen to maneuver him within the first place. On Friday, the Lakers defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves for his or her 14th win of their previous 21 video games. The Clippers misplaced to the Memphis Grizzlies for his or her tenth loss in the identical time-frame.

They’re now separated by solely a single loss within the standings. The 39-38 Lakers are the Western Convention’s No. 7 seed. The 41-37 Clippers are No. 5. The Lakers have two of the best video games on their schedule developing: highway dates with the tanking Rockets and Jazz. The Clippers play the second half of a back-to-back on Saturday towards the Pelicans, and Paul George will not swimsuit up once more within the common season. All of that is to say that the Lakers and Clippers will most likely be fairly shut within the standings by the center of this week, maybe tied, and there’s a very actual likelihood that the staff that slips will get caught combating for a postseason berth within the play-in spherical whereas the victor sits comfortably within the prime six. They will not have to attend passively to learn the way their competitors is doing, both.

On Wednesday, the Clippers will “host” the Lakers for what’s shaping as much as be an important recreation the 2 have ever performed towards each other. For the primary time on this non-rivalry’s historical past, each the Lakers and Clippers are all-in on profitable the championship proper now, and each the Lakers and Clippers will badly must win this recreation to set themselves up to take action. There are, in fact, no ensures right here. The convention is so condensed that different groups may push the victor down or prop the loser up. However the Clippers know effectively simply how scary the play-in spherical will be. They had been eradicated final season after they misplaced there twice. Something can occur in a single recreation, significantly for groups as injury-prone as these two.

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And if something, the narrative stakes are better than the sensible ones. Buying and selling Westbrook saved the Lakers’ season. A deep postseason run with out him would solely additional validate the concept he’s now not able to enjoying a major position on a staff with championship ambitions. An early Clippers exit is perhaps the ultimate nail in that coffin. It is no secret that Lakers followers soured on Westbrook rapidly, and he voiced his frustrations with them publicly on a lot of events. There may very well be no better revenge for him than knocking the Lakers again into the play-in morass they have been making an attempt to flee with out him.

It is not fairly the Western Convention Finals showdown we had been promised in 2019, however it’s virtually extra applicable. The NBA‘s fiercest non-rivalry would not fairly deserve the postseason stage, however that does not imply its best recreation would not warrant the highlight the Clippers so notoriously keep away from. The Lakers and Clippers have given us 4 a long time of meaningless basketball, but when they’re ever going to kind a real, high-stakes rivalry, Wednesday looks as if nearly as good a spot as any to begin. 

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