Los Angeles Lakers (15-16, 102.8 ppg, 100.3 ppg allowed)
- Dwight Howard (17.3 ppg, 56.3% fg, 1.9 apg, 11.9 rpg)
- Pau Gasol (12.7 ppg, 41.7% fg, 4 apg, 8.7 rpg)
- Kobe Bryant (30.3 ppg, 47.9% fg, 4.7 apg, 5.4 rpg)
- Darius Morris (4.9 ppg, 37.5% fg, 2.1 apg, 1.5 rpg)
- Steve Nash (10 ppg, 53.4% fg, 8 apg, 2.9 rpg)
Los Angeles Clippers (25-8, 101.4 ppg, 92.9 ppg allowed)
- DeAndre Jordan (9.4 ppg, 59.7% fg, .5 apg, 7.1 rpg)
- Blake Griffin (17.4 ppg, 52.7% fg, 3 apg, 8.7 rpg)
- Caron Butler (10 ppg, 42.3% fg, .9 apg, 2.6 rpg)
- Willie Green (5.9 ppg, 42.2% fg, .9 apg, 1.4 rpg)
- Chris Paul (16.3 ppg, 47.2% fg, 9.2 apg, 3.5 rpg)
Chris Paul is housed in Los Angeles. He plays in Staples Center for his home games. He has led his team to a 25-8 record, tied for first in the Western Conference. His team leads the Pacific division while a team also from Los Angeles, a team under .500 mind you, trails far and away in the distance. But, it's the Clippers he's leading, and not the Lakers.
It's the Clippers, and not the Lakers. It's a statement that echoes off the walls in Staples and causes all those championships banners to shiver. It's a statement that echoes in the words written in this preview, a jarring reality. For a team that is commonly associated with movie stars and Hollywood, the script has been so very wrong for so very long.
Friday night the two teams from Los Angeles face each other for the second time this season. The Lakers continue to have an identity crisis while the Clippers continue to have a remarkable season. Each and every game matters for both of these teams for very different reasons. For the Clippers, the battle at the top of the Western Conference is fierce. With the Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs tied with them atop the mountain there's no room for them to slow down their pace. Gnabbing the #1 seed would be a huge moment in the franchise's history.
For the Lakers, though, each game is an opportunity to gain ground in stepping into the playoff picture as a whole. With each showing of dynamic progress, a greater or equal display of regression seems to swiftly follow. Breaking the glass ceiling that is the .500 mark seems to be an impossible task for this team. While Kobe Bryant as an individual puts together a career season his team is marred in being average. A story, a script, all too familiar.
It was never supposed to be this way. But it is. Again.
The last time these two teams clashed the Lakers lost by 10. Chris Paul put on a clinic as he scored 18 points, dropped 15 dimes, and grabbed 6 rebounds. Meanwhile, the Lakers played like the Lakers have far too many times as Kobe put up an efficient 40 points (14-23), and the next closest Laker was Dwight Howard with... 13 points. Howard also had 8 rebounds, 5 blocks, and 5 personal fouls. Not much has changed for either team since then, as the Clippers continue to look dangerous and the Lakers look like they're in danger.
This might have been considered a "big game" for the Lakers should they have continued looking dominant since their last "big game" on Christmas Day against the New York Knicks. Instead, they lost 2 of the next 3, with their lone win coming against the Portland Trail Blazers. Now, even if the Lakers win in convincing fashion, it's just another win in a season full of "just another" wins. They've fooled us all to believe a singular point would indicate a turning point enough times by now to know better. A win would be great, no doubt, but until they turn those spectacularly high peaks into something remotely consistent, a win solely signifies it wasn't a loss. The Lakers are inconsistent at both looking like a contender, and looking like a pretender. For now, they're suspended in their mediocrity until they decide otherwise. And that's just the way it is.
Oh Look The Great Mambino did a video preview too!
On This Soundtrack
- Follow this author on Twitter @BallReasons
- The Clippers are winning games. Go see the joy of being at the top of the Western Conference over at Clips Nation.