Since the Clippers relocated from San Diego to Los Angeles in 1984, they’ve been pinned against the Lakers, a team that already had a rich history of winning championships in both the Land of 10,000 Lakes and the City of Angels.
The Lakers have doubled their championship trophies in the 36 years that have passed, but their last championship came in 2010 and prior to this season, they hadn’t made the playoffs since 2013. During that time, the Clippers emerged as title contenders in the Western Conference, making the playoffs eight times and winning the Pacific Division twice.
This year was supposed to be the year that the Lakers and Clippers finally saw each other in the playoffs, but the Clippers were eliminated by the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference semifinals on Tuesday after they led the series 3-1. The most hyped potential playoff series of the season went from a near-certainty to an impossibility in a matter of minutes.
While Lakers fans got joy out watching the Clippers get knocked out in the second round because of how cocky the Clippers and their fan have come in recent years (or in some cases, months), Kyle Kuzma told reporters on Wednesday that it was nothing personal for the Lakers.
“We’re not focused on the Clippers and we never really were,” Kuzma said. “It’s all about who’s in front of you. When you focus on other teams instead of taking care of your food, I mean, shit happens like that. So, for us, we’ve always focused on us, and then focused on Portland, focused on Houston and controlled what we can control as a team. Now our focus is on Denver.”
That mindset is the product of a locker room led by veterans who know what it takes to win at the highest level, from their star players like LeBron James to their role players like Quinn Cook. Obviously chemistry isn’t everything, but as we saw with the Clippers, it’s worth more than a lot of people think.