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Lakers vs. Clippers Preview: The turning point, or the endgame

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With their playoff chances all but out the window, the last hopes for the Lakers may ultimately rest on beating the Clippers on Monday night.

Los Angeles Clippers v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Mercifully, the Los Angeles Lakers’ season will very likely end up being decided by the result of Monday’s contest against the Clippers. Such an early potential climax is mostly their own doing.

After a heartbreaking loss to the team with the best record in the league on Friday, the Lakers and their fanbase let out a collective “Ugh” when the metaphorical football got snatched out from underneath them by the team with the worst record in the league on Saturday.

Although those consecutive losses vary in the types of emotion they generate, they still count the same in the standings, and both of them put the Lakers behind the figurative eight-ball heading into their Staples Center showdown against their hallway rivals.

As of this article, the Lakers are currently four games behind both the Clippers and Spurs in the loss column for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, with just 19 games left to go.

To make matters worse, according to what potentially could be most bookmarked site among Lakers fans going forward — Tankathon — the Lakers also have the seventh-most difficult remaining schedule in the league. Ugh, indeed.

A Lakers win obviously would be ideal given that it picks up a direct game in the standings on the Clippers, and it simultaneously would also give the Lakers a leg up on grabbing a potential tie-breaker between the two teams if it comes down to that by season’s end.

It’s also worth noting that after Monday’s game, the Lakers and Clippers still have one final contest against one another just days before regular season concludes. So despite the murkiness and dread that surrounds the Lakers right now, there is yes still a chance at the postseason still present.

That is, if the Lakers truly want it.

The team’s effort has waxed and waned all season long. When healthy, when injured, with LeBron and without him, the Lakers simply have not proven they are capable of flipping the all-powerful “switch.”

If there ever was a time to do so, now would be it.

The Clippers won’t be a pushover though. They play hard, they play together and there is no disguising the fact that they would love nothing more than to singlehandedly drop the Lakers out of playoff contention for good.

There is no sugarcoating what will be at stake when these two teams face off in Los Angeles on Monday. And while there are many factors in deciding who wins or loses in the NBA, the result of this contest may ultimately come down to something simple: who wants it more.

That’s a notion the entire Lakers locker-room must seriously contemplate before the ball is tipped off. We’ll see what they come up with.

Injury Update:

The Lakers will take on the Clippers at 7:30 p.m. PST on Spectrum Sportsnet. You can follow Alex on Twitter at @AlexmRegla.