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Flipping the script: Lakers at Clippers Preview

Early March games between the two LA franchises usually roll like this: one team out of the race, making offseason plans and muttering "wait until next year, while the other revs up for a hopefully prolonged postseason run. This year? Much of the same. Kind of.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Showtime: 7:30 pm PT

Plot: This time of year, one fan base is mildly checked out, more occupied by checking out draft prospects and ping pong balls. The other is looking at every crack and crease in their squad, finding every potential assurance possible that the team is ready for a fruitful playoff run. It's a paradigm that's hardly ever changed in 30 years of Los Angeles basketball.

But this year, that paradigm has been put on it's head like never before.

The 2013-2014 season has seen the Lakers and Clippers switching roles, with the disparity between the skill level of the two teams further apart than any time in their histories. The Lake Show is well on its way to their worst season in LA, while the Clips are just percentage points off of a franchise-best pace. As startling as it is that its come to this, it's even stranger that this is the first time this has ever happened in three decades.

Regardless of the dangling plot strings and narratives, this game will play on and it might not look good for the Lakers. They come into tonight's contest on a strange string of contests, having beaten the Trail Blazers up in Portland, but losing to a beaten up New Orleans Pelicans team at home on back to back nights. Tonight's bout is the the team's third game in four nights, a unwieldy scenario even without considering the opponent. But considering it's the Clippers who have won five in a row, including road games in Oklahoma City and Phoenix and at home against Houston? Murdertown, baby.

The Clips are playing some of their best basketball of the season in what seems to the a requisite condition for most elite teams playing the Lakers these days. Blake Griffin has established himself as a MVP candidate despite the criticism of many unjust haters, while Chris Paul has easily worked himself back into the line-up that's just waiting for the playoffs. Unfortunately, the rest of the squad might not be quite as fuctional. The Clips are without J.J. Redick, perhaps for the rest of the season, and Jamal Crawford, who will sit out once again with a strained calf for the third consecutive game. This leaves their wing rotation a bit shallow, with the newly signed (but eternally hobbled) Danny Granger as a key piece against the Lakers. The team is adjusting on the whole with both him and fellow buy-out free agent Glen Davis, but it hasn't seemed to affect the Clippers all that much. Just in the past week, they've transformed themselves to a playoffs also-ran into a dark horse title contender.

The Lakers, meanwhile? Not so much. Aside from Monday's shocking win in the PDX, it's been the same team we've seen all year: no offensive rebounding, very little defense, a mass of turnovers and a rotation in constant flux. I can't write that they have no chance against the Clippers seeing as the season series is tied at 1-1, but it'll be very difficult to defeat a team that rebounds well and can blitz the Lakers at all corners offensively.

As unfamiliar as this script may be year to year, this season's Lakers script is very much the same: hoping for a miracle, bracing for the worst.


--Follow this author @TheGreatMambino

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