On Thursday night at Staples Center, the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers will meet for the third time this season. This latest installment of the “battle for LA,” as the rivalry game has been named, provides an opportunity to assess how these teams have reversed roles in recent times.
Unthinkably, the Lakers are at the bottom of the Western Conference with 40 losses in a season that still has 21 games remaining. Considering the upcoming schedule, the Lakers should firmly hold that spot for the foreseeable future, as this season of disappointment painfully stumbles to a close in mid-April.
In sharp contrast, the Clippers have 42 wins in 62 games this season and lead the Pacific Division. Only 4.5 games back of the best record in the NBA, the Clippers are in the NBA’s elite. Particularly, Blake Griffin has elevated his play to move the Clippers into the exclusive circle of NBA title contenders. This season, anything short of a run to the Western Conference Finals would be a massive disappointment. The Clippers may not be outright favorites to make the finals, but they have a legitimate shot at playing in June.
When looking ahead, the Lakers and Clippers are on opposite ends of the spectrum. Clippers coach Doc Rivers is in his first year with the team and is widely heralded as the right man to lead this team this season and in the future. The fans love him, and the former Boston Celtics coach has championship pedigree that earns respect in the locker room and in the media. Even more, his roster is filled with talent that does not appear to be leaving anytime soon.
Currently, the Clippers are the more stable of the two LA teams.
Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni has been blamed for not being Phil Jackson from the night he was handed the job. On talk radio and in the stands, he is the object of the fans’ contempt. Regularly, D’Antoni has been showered with chants of “We want Phil” and crucified in the media for not teaching defense.
Whereas Rivers is the Clippers’ coach for the future, D’Antoni has one year remaining on his contract, and the majority of fans hope his tenure with the Lakers is cut short. Reflecting the coach, the majority of the Lakers’ roster consists of free agents with no guarantees of a future in Los Angeles.
Normally the most stable of franchises, the Lakers have been standing on quicksand and slowly sinking over the past two seasons.
Even in this sandstorm of a season, the Lakers have managed to split their season series with the Clippers. On opening night, the no-name Lakers blew out Chris Paul and company in embarrassing fashion. However, the last time these teams played, the game hovered around a 40-point differential, as the Clippers hammered the Lakers with Griffin thundering dunks.
On Thursday night, the Lakers enter their home arena as underdogs for the umpteenth time this season. Considering this is a rivalry game, though, the record books go out the window.
Round three in the “battle for LA” tips-off at 7:30 pm Pacific Time at Staples Center, fittingly, in downtown Los Angeles.